TORONTO — Ontario says it won't lift its mask mandate in the next phase of reopening, even as it drops most other public health measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
There's still no date for when the province will move to what it calls the "Exit Step" of its "Roadmap to Reopening," but the government says it's giving residents and businesses a sense of what's to come.
The exit step will ditch capacity limits.
But businesses must continue "passive screening" for COVID-19, for example by having signs posted.
They must also keep a safety plan in place that details how they will follow existing public health protocols.
The government says it is keeping the mask mandate in place, unlike Alberta and New Brunswick, because the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is dominant in Ontario.
It notes that Quebec and Israel have done the same thing, and that the American Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who are fully vaccinated wear masks indoors in areas of high COVID-19 transmission.
The province announced Thursday that 80 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, meaning one of three conditions the province has set for moving beyond Step 3 of its reopening plan has been met.
In order to move out of Step 3, the government has also said 75 per cent of people 12 and older must have received their second dose, and all public health units must have 70 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
If vaccination targets are met and health indicators are stable after three weeks in Step 3, restrictions could roll back further, making Aug. 6 the earliest possible date for the change.
The government announced the new rules as Ontario reported 226 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths.
That's the highest daily death toll since July 1, when the province recorded 19 fatalities linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 62 of the new cases are in Toronto, 35 were in Waterloo Region, and 24 were in Peel.
She says the numbers come from nearly 21,000 tests.
Elliott says the province also administered 83,907 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine today.
The province says 81.32 per cent of adults have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 70.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2021.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press