Wednesday’s announcement came as Ontario saw its lowest day-to-day increase in cases of COVID-19 since late March, with only 76 new cases reported.
Thirty of those new cases were reported in Windsor-Essex, the only region that will remain in Stage 2 for the time being.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the associate medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, said there has been a rise in cases in the city of Windsor in addition to the ongoing outbreaks on farms.
The province wants to collect and examine data for at least another week before deciding whether the region can move ahead in the reopening process, Ahmed said, adding numbers for the region must fall closer to the provincial average.
He stressed the need to continue with physical distancing and other health measures, suggesting some may feel even in Stage 2 that everything is back to normal.
“With more reopening … the likelihood of people coming in close contact with each other increases,” Ahmed said in a news conference Wednesday morning.
In a release issued Wednesday morning, the province said it will continue to monitor the situation in Windsor-Essex and provide assistance through measures such as on-farm testing.
The three areas had been held back in Stage 2 because officials said they wanted more data before giving the green light for a broader reopening.
The City of Toronto said Wednesday it is preparing to reopen playgrounds, community centres and libraries, and conducting any necessary inspections.
“We are moving forward into Stage 3 thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of Toronto residents, especially our frontline workers, and businesses,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.
“Public health officials have made it clear that we can move forward but we must continue to be vigilant – COVID-19 doesn’t go away in Stage 3.”
Premier Doug Ford issued a similar caution, saying the province isn’t “out of the woods yet.”
“This virus is still among us and we have to be extra cautious to avoid sparking a surge or an outbreak. I strongly urge everyone to continue following public health protocols,” he said in a statement.
Twenty-four of Ontario’s 34 public health units were allowed to enter Stage 3 on July 17, with another seven joining them on July 24.
In Stage 3, nearly all businesses and public spaces can reopen, with health measures in place, and people can gather in larger groups.
Two cities in Stage 3, Ottawa and Sudbury, have seen new cases of COVID-19 emerge in recent days, but Ford said Tuesday there are no plans to roll back the reopening in any areas.
The total number of cases in Ontario now stands at 38,986, which includes 34,741 cases marked as resolved and 2,769 deaths.
The province reported one new death related to the novel coronavirus on Wednesday. There were also 174 cases newly marked as resolved.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the number of people in hospital, in intensive care and on a ventilator all dropped.
She said the province was able to complete more than 27,000 tests the previous day.
By Paola Loriggio