Peel left off Stage 2 reopening plan

Ontario commenced a regional Stage 2 reopening of the province on June 12th that does not include the Region of Peel. Stage 2 of Ontario’s restart period means loosening of public health measures and increased access to businesses and public areas, while still maintaining public health vigilance and caution.

Additional businesses and services will be permitted to reopen; including hair and beauty salons, restaurants, bars and shopping malls. Social gathering limitations will also be expanded from 5 upwards to 10 people.

Despite the gradual reopening of the province, the government maintains their emphasis on physical distancing, and the use of PPE and caution if physical distancing cannot be maintained.

For more information, visit Ontario’s framework for reopening the province.

Why Peel Region is not moving to Stage 2

As Ontario progresses towards loosening public health restrictions, numerous regions have been granted clearance to enter Stage 2 of Phase 2 in Ontario’s action plan to gradually reopen. Of the list of regions moving to Stage 2, the Peel Public Health Unit is not included.

The regions excluded from entering Stage 2 hold the greatest rates of infection for COVID-19. These jurisdictions will be withheld from reopening businesses and services until their curve is further flattened. This means everyone in Brampton will have to wait before accessing their favourite hair salon or restaurant.

As of June 10th, Peel region’s rate of COVID-19 infection is 315.9 cases per 100,000 people, the 3rd highest in Ontario behind the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and Toronto Public Health Unit. For comparison, the Toronto Public Health Unit rate of infection is 377.1 cases per 100,000 people. Despite a significantly smaller population than the Toronto Public Health Unit, the Peel Region possesses comparable rates of infection. Unfortunately, a majority of COVID-19 cases in Peel Region are attributed to Brampton.

“It is ongoing transmission and risk that has held Brampton and Peel back in the Phase 2 reopening”, said Dr. Lawrence Loh.

Brampton’s role in flattening the curve

Currently, the Region of Peel reports a total of 5,319 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, 52% of which Brampton is responsible for. According to Dr. Loh, “since early June most of the new cases in Peel have been found in the city of Brampton”, a majority of which are in the 20-29 age group. Therefore, it appears the responsibility falls upon the younger citizens of Brampton to strengthen containment efforts. What can Brampton’s youth do to further control the infection and help Brampton enter Stage 2 of reopening?

“We will continue to keep a close eye on regions that will not open this Friday… we need just a little more time”, Premier Ford said.

Although Ford was ambiguous as to when the Peel Region and Brampton can reopen, it is clear we must first lower our rates of infection. This means Brampton must further emphasize physical distancing, public health measures and vigilance. Mayor Brown stated, “physical distancing is so critical; it is the only way we can move forward”. Aside from the standard public health measures that residents have now grown accustomed, Brampton’s youth needs to do more in preventing the spread of infection. Although the weather is warmer, and it is becoming more tempting to go out and enjoy the summer with friends and family, it is crucial to maintain vigilance amid a pandemic.

Last week, a total of 127 fines were issued to individuals violating the physical distancing bylaws established. From backyard parties to entering closed parks for recreational activities, this negligence and irresponsibility must stop if Brampton wishes to enter Stage 2 of reopening.

The longer we continue to take physical distancing and safety precautions for granted, the longer it will take for Brampton to reopen. Although our neighbouring jurisdictions may be loosening restrictions, Brampton and the Region of Peel as a whole is simply not ready yet. While the spread of COVID-19 appears to be slowing down, now is not the time to become careless. Brampton must remain patient for now.

“The last week has been better, our numbers are starting to diminish… [but] we still have a lot of work to do”, said Mayor Patrick Brown.

As we prepare to enter Stage 2 and gradually loosen public health restrictions, Brampton enters a crucial period of ensuring that a second wave of infection does not emerge. Although all public parks in Brampton are reopening as of June 11th, it is imperative to remember that this does not mean we can revert to our pre-pandemic lifestyles. We must continue to exercise caution and protective equipment when engaging with others, in order to prevent a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. While many of our leisurely activities and luxuries slowly return to us, it is still too early to be lackadaisical.