Ontario will gradually reopen Simcoe Muskoka by lifting the lockdown on Feb. 16. However, it's not going to be business as usual.
The region will shift from the lockdown to the province's colour-coded COVID-19 restriction framework.
Before Dec. 26, when the stay-at-home order was issued, Simcoe Muskoka was in the red zone. It's unclear what category the region will be in once the order ends.
The province said the coloured zones' safety measures had been modified, including allowing regions in the Grey category to allow in-person shopping with a 25 per cent capacity.
Barrie Chamber of Commerce president Todd Tuckey says he's cautiously optimistic.
"We are certainly hoping that everything will open up gently in our region on the 16th, and we will go into that Grey zone. But that is also a daily thing. They are watching our numbers every day, and between now and then, if our numbers increase, we actually will not open," Tuckey said.
Tracey Baker owns Zuzu Fashion Boutique and said she has been preparing to welcome back customers for months. "It has been very difficult for me, in particular, because I don't have an online store, so I have had virtually no revenue or sales coming in."
Ski resorts that opened back in December only to be closed by the province shortly after are gearing up for guests.
"Now what will happen is we are going to ramp back up," said Tara Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort. "A lot of what we put into place is already ready to go."
Meanwhile, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said ramping up could hinder the progress made to keep COVID-19 case numbers on a downward slope.
"I am a bit concerned that if we open up too early, we could get a third wave before the vaccinations have really rolled out. So I'm trusting they will take the advice of medical officers of health and do it slowly, gradually and carefully."
The provincial government's green, yellow, orange, red, and grey categories all come with various restrictions. The government will also introduce an "emergency brake," allowing the province to immediately move a region into lockdown if cases spike.