Reducing the risks from COVID-19

A banner that reads : Learning to live with COVID doesn't mean the pandemic is over.

 Last updated: May 10, 2022

"Learning to live with COVID" doesn't mean moving on as if the pandemic is over, it means being mindful of the virus' presence in our day-to-day lives.

As more public health measures are lifted, it's important to remember that COVID is still present in Ottawa. There is still risk of transmission, and the risk of infection & severe outcomes from COVID-19 is greater for some individuals than others. 

However, Ottawa residents have learned tools and skills to prevent transmission that we did not have two years ago. 

We'll continue to update this page in order to help you make informed decisions regarding your own personal levels of risk, and the risks you may pose to those around you, in the current environment.

Visit ontario.ca/covid19 for more information on the latest public health measures in Ontario.

Ottawa Public Health's role

We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa using a variety of monitoring indicators such as wastewater signals, test positivity, vaccination levels, outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths.

This information will continue to be available on our website

We will continue working with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, to assess options should key indicators (including hospitalizations) start trending upward in a concerning way. 

We'll work with health and community partners to continue to provide regular updates on the ongoing work being done at the local level during the COVID-19 pandemic. We meet regularly with our healthcare partners to review lessons learned and we continue to collaborate with them. 

We will always strive to remember the “public” in public health. Listening to the community is a vital aspect of our work, and we will continue to ensure residents have ways to make their voices heard.

Am I at a higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19?

A person with any of the medical conditions listed below is more likely to get very sick with COVID-19 especially if they have yet to receive at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Older age – risk increases for people in their 50s and increases in 60s, 70s and 80s.
  • Unvaccinated individuals, especially those over 50 years of age.
    • A third dose or a “booster dose” is now being recommended for adults 18 and older to further reduce their risk of severe outcomes.
  • Certain cancers
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic lung diseases (E.g. COPD)
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease (E.g. Heart failure)
  • Dementia
  • Immune-compromised state
  • Pregnancy

The list above does not include all possible conditions that put you at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.

COVID-19 antiviral treatment

a hand holding pillsTalk with your healthcare provider about how best to protect yourself from severe outcomes from COVID-19. The Ontario Government is offering important antiviral treatment that certain highest-risk groups must begin as soon as possible because treatment has to be started within five days of symptom onset to be most effective. Speak to your primary care professional to discuss your risk and make a plan on how to quickly access important COVID-19 therapies.

If you are symptomatic, there are many ways to get a COVID-19 test or see a medical professional for an assessment and access COVID-19 treatment. For more information visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/CovidTesting.

Use your layers!

COVID’s still out there. Below are some actions you can take to reduce your risk. Every one of them adds a layer of protection which can lower your risk & the risk you pose to those around you. 

Think of it this way, Ottawa: the colder it is outside, the more important it is to dress in layers to protect yourself from the cold & stay warm. As it gets colder, you add more layers. 

Well, in this case the higher the level of risk you’re facing, the more important it is to consistently use as many of these layers as you can. And every single layer counts! 

Your layers: 

  • Being vaccinated with all the doses you’re eligible for 

  • Monitoring yourself for symptoms & staying home when sick 

  • Wearing a mask 

  • Avoiding crowded indoor spaces 

  • Maintaining physical distancing 

  • Washing your hands (yes, still) 

  • Respecting those who remain at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 

  • If you are someone who remains at higher risk, consistently using these layers is essential. And please note that you may also be eligible for testing & treatment options. Learn more here.

 

What is Your Level of Risk?

Sometimes, it helps to ask ourselves some simple questions to better understand the risks that we might be dealing with (or the risks we might pose to others). Below are some examples of questions to help you assess your levels of risk. 

Hint: generally speaking, it’s safe to say that indoor crowded spaces where people are unmasked and not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations is higher risk. 

Do you have any symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes, what now?

No, and...?

  • Just because you have no symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID.
  • To reduce your risk from COVID, be sure to use your layers of protection when going out. 
Will you be spending time in a crowded indoor space?

Yes, what now?

  • This can be higher risk to yourself and others, but layers can be used to help lower the level of risk to everyone. 

  • Be sure to wear a mask and try to keep your distance from others. 

  • Open windows and ensure everyone eligible is up to date on their vaccines.
  • Note: your best option is always to meet outdoors.

No, and...?

  • Avoiding crowded indoor spaces is generally considered lower risk.
  • Be sure to bring a mask with you, in case your plans change.
  • As always, using the rest of your layers will help lower your risks.
Will you be visiting anyone who is at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 in the coming days?

Yes, what now?

  • You may pose a high risk to those you’re visiting.
  • It’s essential that you & the person you’re visiting are vaccinated with all the doses you’re eligible for. 
  • Avoid crowded places for 5-7 days prior to your visit.
  • Try to use every other layer available to you: wear a mask, respect physical distancing, meet outdoors if you can (open windows if indoors), wash your hands often.
  • Important: cancel the visit if you begin to feel sick!

No, and...?

  • You may still end up being close to people who are at higher risk (even if you don’t know it).
  • Be sure to be vaccinated with all the doses you’re eligible for, wear your mask when needed, and ensure you’re using every one of your layers.
  • Each action you take can help to protect them 
Are you vaccinated with all the doses you are eligible for 

Yes, what now?

  • Lovely. Thanks for doing your part to lower the risk to yourself and those around you.
  • Btw, if anyone close to you that you care about isn’t up to date on their vaccinations, now’s a good time to encourage them to do so.

No, and...?

  • Please consider getting vaccinated for all the doses you are eligible for as soon as you can.
  • You can drop-in to ANY our of clinics for your 1st, 2nd or 3rd dose. No appointment needed! Lean more here.
  • If you (or members of your household) are not fully vaccinated, you aren’t benefitting from this layer of protection, so the other layers are even more important to use. 
Will you be able to physically distance wherever you’re going? 

Yes, what now?

  • Good. This will help create a lower risk environment.
  • Keep a mask handy in case you’re unable to keep your distance, or in case someone there asks you to mask-up for their protection.

No, and...?

  • We highly recommend that you wear a mask.
  • Crowded spaces, especially indoors, can be a higher risk setting.
Are you someone who is at higher risk from COVID-19?

Yes, what now?

  • Every single layer of protection is essential for you, each one counts.
  • The most important layer is getting vaccinated with all the doses you’re eligible for.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask others to mask up when around you.
  • Please note that you may be eligible for testing & treatment options. Learn more here.

No, and...?

  • Please be mindful of those who remain at higher risk.

  • Wear your mask if they ask you to, and ensure you’re using every one of your layers.

  • Each action you take can help to protect them. 

Have you washed your hands with soap & water for 30 seconds recently? (p.s. if soap isn’t available, use hand sanitizer) 

Yes, what now?

  • Excellent. Thanks. This simple activity helps lower your risk.
  • Likely best to do it again, though, especially if you’re planning to be in public & handling things (shopping, etc).

No, and...?

  • Look, we get it. But even though it seems insignificant, frequent & proper hand-washing plays an important role in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 (and other viruses, btw). 

More Details about Your Layers

Vaccination

  • Our best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and long-term impacts from COVID-19 is vaccination.
  • Booster doses are critical for lowering the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. Residents are encouraged to get their booster dose as soon as they are eligible. For more information visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Covid19Vaccine.
  • Although the proof of vaccination requirement was lifted on March 1, as per the Province, businesses may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination from their patrons. It is the responsibility of a business or organization to assess whether they may be in a position to continue with these restrictions from those seeking their services.

Masking

  • Residents are encouraged to continue to wear a mask in certain settings especially indoors when physical distancing may not be possible.
  • Reminder that masks remain mandatory in public transit and health care & congregate settings such as long-term care homes.
  • A reminder that under current federal travel requirements, upon return from international travel, individuals that are exempt from quarantine, AND that are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (including schools and child care), for their first 14 days in Canada. Fully vaccinated returning international travelers are no longer required to mask in public settings for 14 days after arrival to Canada.
  • When using a mask, select the best quality one available to you.
  • Some individuals may choose to keep wearing masks in places where they are not required; please be kind and respectful of others’ choices.
  • When attending a gathering, always bring your mask with you. There may be times when others will not be comfortable being around maskless people, or they could be at high-risk, and they may ask you to mask-up.
  • It's important to remember that wearing a mask is something we can all do to help to protect those who remain at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.

For more information visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks.

Monitoring for symptoms and staying home when sick

Residents should continue daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms for all family members and stay home when sick. For information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts visit our web page.

As molecular testing (PCR and rapid molecular testing) is prioritized for those at increased risk of severe outcomes and those living and working in highest risk settings, molecular testing is no longer being recommended for all individuals in the community with symptoms of COVID-19. People who have symptoms or test positive on a rapid antigen test and are not eligible for molecular testing are presumed to have COVID-19 and must self-isolate. Have a few Rapid Antigen Tests ready for your household. Make sure that the tests are not expired. For more information about available testing and treatment options in Ottawa visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/CovidTesting.

Increasing ventilation

Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is linked to increased transmission of respiratory infections, particularly if the airspace is small. Transmission of COVID-19 has been linked with enclosed spaces, including from people who are infected but are not showing any symptoms of illness. Ventilation with fresh air should be improved whenever possible, e.g., bringing in more fresh air through a properly maintained ventilation system or by opening windows and doors. For more information visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Socialwise.

Gatherings

If you are planning to have an in-person gathering, reduce your risk and that of your guests by ensuring your guests are up to date and received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s). Also consider the risk of those at higher risk of serious outcomes.

  • If hosting a gathering, you can lower your risk of COVID-19 by having it outdoors.
  • If hosting an indoor gathering, reduce your risk by opening windows to ensure proper ventilation.
  • When attending a gathering, always bring your mask with you. There may be times when others will not be comfortable being around maskless people, or they could be at high-risk, and they may ask you to mask-up.
  • Do not gather if you or anyone who planned to be in attendance is sick.
  • If you plan to visit friends/family who are at a higher risk of serious COVID-19 impacts, avoid crowded spaces in the days leading up to your visit.
  • If you are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 impacts, ensure you’re being mindful of your surroundings. If you walk into a restaurant that is very crowded, consider going elsewhere or ordering in. For a crowded grocery or retail store, consider shopping at non-peak times or use curb side pick-up.

a banner that reads: use your layers.

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