Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

Remember to be COVID Wise:

Download our fact sheet on What You Need to Know About COVID-19.

Last revised on October 21, 2020

Read the special statements from officials

Read the latest statement
October 21, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Hello. Bonjour. Kwey.

Before I begin with the rest of my statement this morning, I would like to acknowledge the difficult and emotional day for many in our community with yesterday’s court decision in the death of Abdirahman Abdi. It is important for us to recognize the different experiences of members of our community, and that this can be a distressing time. We need to continue to support each other, listen and show compassion. 

We encourage anyone who is feeling distressed to reach out and seek support; it’s OK to not be OK. There are a number of mental health resources available on our website where people can find help. Our community is suffering right now, and Ottawa Public Health will continue to work with you.

The message for the public today when it comes to reducing the harms from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we need to reduce risks in settings related to organized team sports.  Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is investigating several situations where transmission of COVID-19 has occurred in relation to organized team sports. COVID-19 transmission is occurring in both adults and children’s leagues, and in a variety of sports.

In these instances, transmission and/or exposure occurred before, during and after training.

But I also want to stress that COVID-19 doesn’t stay isolated to just players and coaches; we are also seeing transmission occur to family members, friends, classmates and work colleagues – once again showing how easy COVID-19 can spread if the environment allows.

As always, OPH is following up with all individuals who test positive as well as their close contacts. We work closely with local sports organizations to inform them of the situation and to provide further guidance on the importance of taking preventative measures while participating in team sports.

Based on case management investigations, transmission may have occurred in a variety of ways including during team play, during the use of locker rooms, during carpooling with members outside a player’s household, eating together among teammates, parents, coaches and other children, team staff members who are involved in more than one team and individuals not wearing masks.

We recognize the important role that staying active plays in our overall health and well-being. In light of these events, it’s important to remind all families about being COVIDWise while participating in organized team sports by wearing a mask, isolating from others when you’re sick, staying two metres apart from those outside your household and exercising proper hand hygiene

The modified stage 2 provincial regulations allow organized sports teams to continue to practice but with some restrictions. For example, games and scrimmages are not permitted. Only 10 participants are allowed in indoor settings and 25 are allowed in outdoor settings. Travel to other regions is strongly discouraged. Any person who enters or uses a facility must maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from any other person who is using the facility. Masks should be worn at all times before, during and after activity unless engaged in strenuous athletic activity. And, any locker rooms, change rooms, showers and clubhouses in the facility must be closed, except to provide access to equipment storage, a washroom or a portion of the facility that is used to provide first aid.

Other ways we can reduce the risk of transmission in organized sports settings include:

  • minimizing social gatherings of participants and spectators both before and after the activity
  • avoiding carpooling with those outside your household
  • participating on only one team
  • not sharing sports gear
  • playing outside when possible
  • washing hands before and after play

Although training is still permitted, team sports and activities are still considered high risk. COVID-19 does not distinguish between a game or a practice. Use your best judgement. If you choose to participate, go back to the basic principles of mask wearing, physical distancing, handwashing and staying home when sick to reduce transmission of the virus. 

Sports and recreation outbreak reporting

Lastly, starting today at 12:30 pm, OPH will be reporting on the number of outbreaks in sports and recreation settings on our daily COVID-19 dashboard. Individual teams and organizations will not be named in this report.

Similar to some other settings, an outbreak in a sports league is defined as at least two players or coaches on the same team testing positive for COVID-19 with an epidemiological link.

Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca for more Guidance for Return to Sport, Recreation and Fitness.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

Read the previous statements
October 16, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

At this week’s Ottawa City Council meeting, I provided an update on the current COVID-19 situation in Ottawa.

Over the past two weeks, Ottawa has had the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Ontario. Between October 4 and 10, Ottawa sits at number one with approximately 70 individuals testing positive for every 100,000 people. We are seeing COVID-19 affecting all age groups across the entire city, and what is perhaps most concerning is the increase of people testing positive in long-term care homes. Testing volumes are high compared to other large cities in Ontario and the percentage of people testing positive continues to increase.

Our main goals throughout the COVID-19 response are to minimize hospitalizations and deaths, reduce societal disruption by keeping schools open and mitigating economic impacts. Ottawa, we have been through so much together these last seven months. But I am hopeful that the recent spike in cases is something we can change. We have the power to change the data and bend the curve in the right direction by sticking with the basics: limiting your close contacts to those you live with, wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying home when sick.

This will work, but it will take some time. We need businesses to stay open and it is possible if we all keep 2 metres away from people outside of our households.

Be HalloWise

I want everyone to also keep these basics in mind when thinking about how to celebrate Halloween this year.

Earlier this week Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam indicated that everyone should listen to their local medical officer of health when it comes to Halloween, specifically trick-or-treating. Here in Ottawa, we are encouraging residents to find alternatives to trick-or-treating and keep Halloween activities within the home.

We can look forward to celebrating Halloween in new ways. Take the traditional aspects of trick-or-treating and bring them into your household: Dress up. Show off your costumes virtually or to neighbours from a distance. Hide Halloween candy around your house or in your yard.

OPH encourages everyone to limit trips out into the community to essential trips and physical activity only. Taking a walk to enjoy neighbourhood Halloween decorations is considered a safer activity as long as you stick with members of your household. We do not recommend planning neighbourhood events that could invite gatherings and make physical distancing difficult.

Of course, if anyone in your household is feeling ill or has tested positive for COVID-19, everyone in the household must keep all Halloween activities inside the home.

More advice on how to celebrate Halloween more safely can be found on our Be Social Wise webpage.

Wastewater data and testing numbers

For the past several months, researchers at the University of Ottawa and CHEO Research Institute have been working on a new way to help detect levels of COVID-19 in the community: through our wastewater. Currently, wastewater is collected five days a week and transported to a laboratory where it is immediately tested and results are reported the next morning.

While still in the research stage, this data is valuable because it doesn’t rely on people getting tested; we’re all contributing. And, studies have shown that people could shed the virus in their stool before their symptoms start.

Both our testing and wastewater data are telling us the same thing: we need to bring the level of COVID-19 in the community down to avoid an increase in people testing positive in long-term care homes, keep hospitalizations down and to keep our schools open.

Just recently, the wastewater data is suggesting that the virus is spreading in our community faster than it is being picked up by people going for testing. I am asking anyone with symptoms that could be due to COVID-19 to seek testing, either through on-line booking or by phoning for an appointment. The Assessment Centres have appointments open each day and capacity to see more people.

More information on wastewater data can be found on our website or on 613covid.ca/wastewater.

Case management in schools

I’d like to remind our media partners and parents who have questions about how case management works in schools that we have information on our Supporting Our Schools page on our website. We have decision guides that help paint a picture of what happens from the time a student or staff tests positive and when there is a symptomatic student at school:

We also have examples of the letters that parents receive when an individual tests positive in a school setting. Based on feedback from parents, we have worked closely with all four school boards to get those letters out faster, as well as include more detailed information in them, including which classes and bus routes are affected.

In addition to training more staff to assist with contact tracing,  we are also leveraging technology, where it makes sense, to reach individuals who test positive and their close contacts. This has already started in the school setting given the potential for higher numbers of close contacts.   We know that sending your children to school may not have been an easy decision, so we are committed to continuously improve our processes and communications with families and schools to support you.

Choose hope

Thank you, Ottawa, for your continued hard work. I was able to take a few days off recently, and I encourage everyone to keep tabs on their own mental health; everyone needs a break.

And I encourage you to remain hopeful. This is so important for our mental health. I know it’s hard to hear that we must stick with our COVID prevention measures for a while longer, especially when it feels like there is no end in sight. But please, hold on with us. Don't hesitate to think ahead to the time when the pandemic will end.  One lesson from the past: health crises do pass. And it’s up to each of us to do our part while we wait. 

October 9, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney (Deputy Medical Officer of Health)

Ottawa is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 infection unlike what we saw in the spring. This week, we have seen record-setting levels of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in schools and community settings.  Both individuals testing positive and hospitalizations have doubled since the week of September 13 and this is contributing to a crisis where, locally, we are also seeing more outbreaks and more deaths.

These new temporary restrictions announced by the province today are important measures in a time of crisis in our community. No one wants schools to close. No one wants businesses to close or go out of business. And, we want to protect long-term care and retirement homes.

These enhanced measures are temporary and are intended to contribute to decreasing the spread of the virus in Ottawa.

The restrictions come at a pivotal time as we start the Thanksgiving long weekend where traditionally people gather. We will continue to say, in as many ways as we can, that each of our individual actions matter. OPH continues to urge residents to continue being COVIDWise and to stay local, keep gatherings to members of their household and connect with extended family and friends virtually instead of in person.

We understand these restrictions will have an impact on many local businesses. Together, the best thing we can do for local businesses is for each of us to do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community so they can re-open their doors again as soon as possible. Some restaurants and bars will still have takeout and/or patio service; please continue to support them. Visit ottawa.ca for information on how you can support your local businesses.

We appreciate that there will be many questions about what these new restrictions mean. OPH will continue to provide updates as they are available. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit the provincial website for the latest information. We will also be posting the weblinks from the province on our website.

As always, OPH is asking everyone to check in regularly on your mental health and of those around you, especially business owners you know or those living alone. Try to unplug and find a balance. Know that you are not in this alone. Try to stay active and get outdoors. And talk to someone. It’s OK to not be OK.

Visit our website for more information and resources.

October 8, 2020 – Special joint statement from Councillor Keith Egli, Chair of Ottawa’s Board of Health and Dr. Brent Moloughney, Deputy Medical Officer of Health

Chair Egli:

As we approach the Thanksgiving long weekend, there are many things we at Ottawa Public Health are grateful for. The amount of support received by OPH from our City colleagues, Ottawa residents and the community has been a bright spot in an otherwise challenging year. Unfortunately, holidays are going to look and feel different during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Today’s COVID-19 data is alarming. As of this morning, 183 more people have tested positive for C-19 in Ottawa while the numbers of those hospitalized and in critical care continue to rise. We are falling behind. We do not want to see our schools and economy close this Fall and face another lockdown. Prevention efforts are the only way we can slow crisis in our health care system. As such, the City would like to notify residents that as of two weeks from today, OC Transpo Officials will begin monitoring City buses more closely and providing tickets to anyone not complying with the Mandatory Mask By-Law. So far, Ottawa residents have pulled together by doing their part and wearing masks when inside indoor public spaces, and in an effort to bend the curve residents need to please make sure masks are worn inside City buses as well.

The COVID-19 situation in Ottawa is critical, and as many members of our community plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this long-weekend, OPH is urging residents to please stay local, keep gatherings to members of their household only, and connect with extended family and friends virtually instead of in person.

Although current provincial guidance allows for up to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, due to the extent of COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa, OPH recommends limiting gatherings as much as possible. In other words, limit gatherings to those who live in your household or those providing support services, such as a caregiver.  If you live alone (single parent, student, etc.), one or two contacts outside your home can be important social supports to draw on. 

This past summer Ottawa experienced increases in individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 following long-weekends, which tells us that higher levels of transmission occurred during long-weekends.

These are not normal times and we appreciate the tough decisions being made by Ottawa residents. OPH has published Guidance for Social Gatherings During COVID-19 on the OPH website to help support residents during the holiday and winter season. We would encourage all residents to give the guidance a read through.  

In the season of giving thanks, we are also reminded of the importance of being kind and, more specifically, COVID Kind.   

Sadly, with the emergence of COVID-19, we have seen rising racism, xenophobia, discrimination, hate incidents and crimes targeting our Asian communities globally and here in Canada. As a virus, COVID-19 does not discriminate. Anyone can be infected. Evidence has shown that certain groups may be more impacted by COVID-19 than others due to broader health and social factors that increase the risk of contracting the disease and of being able to protect others. OPH is reminding and encouraging Ottawa residents to remain COVID Kind this holiday season by respecting others and taking an extra moment to say thank you to those working in the service industry. Support, kindness and compassion is what we need now.

Lastly regarding testing OPH is aware that residents are hearing mixed messages regarding testing. Going into this weekend, OPH would like all residents to know that when they phone the City to inquire specifically about testing, we will have a recorded message set up that will provide information on testing centres, locations, hours, ages, and how to book online or by phone. 

With that, I wish you all a healthy, happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend. 

Dr. Brent Moloughney:

Today, we are reporting 183 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, yet another record we don’t want to break.

We continue to see more hospitalizations, more outbreaks and most unfortunately, more deaths. Both cases and hospitalizations have doubled since the week of September 13.

We’re not yet seeing the curve slow down. We know it’s not something that will happen overnight, but we do know that we have the tools, knowledge and experience to do what it takes to flatten the curve.

The more cases there are in the community, the greater the opportunity for the virus to be introduced into our childcare facilities, our schools, and our long-term care and retirement homes. The more cases that are in the community and these vulnerable settings, the more hospitalizations that we will see; and have seen this past week.

We will continue to say, in as many ways as we can, that each of our individual actions matter. Each decision we make will have a direct impact on our community. Earlier today, Ottawa Public Health shared a new infographic of a wedding cluster that shows what can happen when just one person with COVID-19 attends a gathering. While in this example the person had mild symptoms, people are infectious before they develop symptoms, and some don’t develop symptoms at all. This is why physical distancing and wearing a mask around others not in our households are so important.

In this wedding cluster, that one person led to at least 22 others testing positive, including one person in a group home, and more than 200 people having to self-isolate. Think about the case management involved. And think about how many lives that disrupts.

Please: don’t think your individual actions don’t matter. They do.

No one wants schools or businesses to close. It would have a detrimental impact on the financial and mental health of the community. Closures are the last resort. But if we continue down this path, it may have to come to that, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions.

With regards to gatherings, Chair Egli spoke about Thanksgiving, so I’d like to speak to another significant event that we’re approaching: Halloween.

Be HalloWise

I know everyone is anxious for guidance on how to celebrate Halloween as safely as possible.

When it comes to hosting a gathering – whether it be a party, haunted house or other get together – much like Thanksgiving, we are asking people to limit their Halloween celebrations to their household contacts.

We have to keep in mind what is happening with COVID-19 in the community. In addition to the province decreasing the maximum sizes for social gatherings, our COVID-19 numbers are still too high. More people are testing positive, we’re still seeing an upward trend of outbreaks, and hospitalizations are also on the rise. We are in the midst of a significant resurgence and all of us need to reduce our close contacts in order to flatten this curve. As such, OPH is advising both community officials and residents not to host or encourage Halloween parties or gatherings this year.

I also know people are anxious about advice around trick-or-treating. We are monitoring our numbers every day and will be able to make a better decision in the next week or so as we get closer to Halloween. We also await guidance from the province as this is likely to impact what happens locally. But the same principle applies: we need to monitor what is happening in the community before assessing the risk of any large-scale activity or event.

We’re asking residents to be creative this year. Create new traditions. Have a scary movie night with those in your household. Hold a scavenger hunt with your children instead of taking them trick-or-treating. Decorate your house, dress up in costumes and have virtual contests this year instead of in-person. With a little bit of innovation on our side, we can still have an enjoyable Halloween.

We continue to update our Be Social Wise page on ottawapublichealth.ca, including advice on safer ways to celebrate your favourite holidays.

Fall flu vaccine campaign

And of course, we are also approaching flu season. With flu and COVID-19 viruses to be in our community at the same time, there is the potential for more people to become ill this fall and winter and overwhelm hospitals. 

Our goal is to have as much of the community immunized as possible. Influenza immunization of the population is essential every year, but it is of utmost importance this year.

We may not have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but we have one for flu.

So our message to you is this: If you don’t normally get a flu shot, get one this year.

OPH has received our vaccines and are in the midst of shipping them to providers including hospitals, long-term care homes and community immunization providers.  Pharmacies access vaccine directly from the province and are starting to receive them this week.

Typically, OPH directly provides more than 11,000 doses of influenza immunizations in Ottawa. The 2020 plan doubles this expected contribution.  Later this month, OPH will be offering three options for residents to receive their flu shot:

  • OPH community clinics. To avoid crowding and control the flow of clients in and out of these locations, the clinics will be by appointment.
  • Physicians and primary care providers will be providing flu vaccine to their patients.
  • Targeted immunization clinics for populations facing greater barriers in shelters, group homes, and other congregate settings where residents are not able to access universal clinics.

Pharmacies will also be providing the flu vaccine to Ottawa residents five years and older.

More information on these clinics, including the location of the OPH community clinics, are available on our website. Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Flu for this and other information on the flu including prevention, participating pharmacies and seasonal reports.

Thank you, merci, meegwetch and I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving long weekend.

October 5, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches: Two cities, one message

Bon après-midi. Hello. Kwe.

Today, Dr. Brigitte Pinard and I thought it was important for us to come together to share the same clear message: COVID-19 levels are too high in our communities, and we need to act now to slow the spread in the Ottawa-Gatineau National Capital region.

We are two cities with one message.

Sometimes it can feel like information around the COVID-19 pandemic is changing faster than we can keep up with it.  

I appreciate that at times it can be difficult to fully grasp guidance locally, regionally and provincially, across provinces.  We are in the unique position in that we have our neighbours across the river with a different set of provincial rules and guidance, and people cross the bridges every day for work and school, to shop or enjoy a meal on a patio or simply to enjoy the beauty of our region.

The relentless flow of new information hasn't slowed in seven months. And we've endeavored to make the best decisions we could based on the best information we had at the time. As the COVID situation changes, what we need to do to address it changes.

We’re working hard to make sure the information is as clear as possible so residents and visitors are equipped to make the right decisions for them and their loved ones.

And for our media partners, I know you don’t have an easy task!

Here in Ottawa, daily new numbers are at an all-time high. These are not records we want to be breaking. Hospitalizations and outbreaks continue to increase. We’re seeing more deaths.  The virus can spread at an exponential rate if there continue to be opportunities for it to spread.

As I said last Friday, this is our critical turning point. Our healthcare system is entering crisis territory. We need to act now or we risk the dire consequences of overburdening our healthcare system.

My colleague Dr. Pinard will tell you about the situation in the Outaouais region, but overall, our message is the same: We must limit our close contacts to our households. And when we have to be out in public, we must take the proper precautions to reduce the spread.

In Ottawa, I am asking residents to limit their close contacts to those in their household plus essential supports. Of course, we have to keep everyone’s mental health in mind; if you live alone, we know one or two contacts outside your home are important social supports. And, single parents in particular have noted the need to be able to draw on help from others, too.  

The vast majority of people in Ottawa continue to do the right thing, and I know my colleague will say the same for people in the Outaouais region.

We may be separated by a river, but our guidance is the same. We are two cities, but we’re one big region. So having a clear and consistent message is important as residents travel daily between our two provinces.

We’re coming up to a challenging time with colder weather bringing us indoors. Now is a good time to think about a new winter hobby, think about how you can start new traditions for the holidays and embrace the relationships with those closest to you. I know that personally I will be looking forward to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing with my husband and boys this winter, hopefully on both sides of the river.

We want to be able to get outside, support local businesses, keep our kids in school, safely visit our loved ones for the holidays this winter even if this year, we have to do that very differently.

And speaking of holidays, we have a big one coming up: Thanksgiving. Like many other things, Thanksgiving will look and feel different this year. We are asking that you spend Thanksgiving only with those in your household. Perhaps this year, Thanksgiving can be a virtual supper by setting up a phone, tablet or laptop around the dinner table to connect with those outside your household. If we work hard to follow public health guidance and limit our close contacts now, we stand a chance at being able to celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanzaa with a few more members of our extended family in just a couple of months.

For now, we have to do the right thing, right now to keep ourselves and each other safe.

Today, we saw 82 people test positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa.

One day our number will be zero. Zero cases. Zero hospitalizations. Zero deaths.

It’s hard to imagine, but we will get there, and that image makes me smile.

One day there will be a vaccine.

One day we will be able to come together again. We’ll be able to hug and embrace others. Shake a stranger’s hand. Share a meal with a friend. Have big family barbecues, celebrate with large weddings, throw an in-person baby shower, travel in groups, go to a concert.

We’re not there yet. Until we are, the power to bend down the curve is in our hands.

Continue to follow the advice of your local public health unit, whether that be Ottawa Public Health or le Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de L'Outaouais, because we’re still here with you. And we will continue to be with you – two metres apart, but every step of the way.

Merci. Thank you. Meegwetch.

October 2, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

I have something really important I need you to hear. Our health system is in crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am thankful for all you are doing to prevent COVID from spreading in our city.  Individual actions matter. I know that Ottawa residents of every age are under an incredible amount of stress and strain every day, at school, at work, and are just trying their best to makes their lives as normal as possible in what often feels like the most impossible of times. 

However, today I am reporting that 142 new people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa, and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 are on the rise. We will hit 200 way before mid-October if this rate of increase continues. This is not good. We must do better.

There are many moving pieces in our delicate health system, and while Ottawa Public Health is not in charge of most of them, as your Medical Officer of Health, I believe you need to understand what things look like from where I sit.

The pressure on the health system is coming from the number of times COVID is being passed on when people are in close contact.  If we continue to come into close contact with people outside our households and one or two essential supports, without wearing a mask, or if we continue to see friends and family when we’re sick, Ottawa’s health system crisis will only get worse.

Prevention

Preventing the spread of COVID is within all of our power – it is the collective actions of every individual that will make a real difference. Prevention is one of Ottawa Public Health’s primary roles, to provide information and provide supports and guidance to empower individuals to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

Ottawa Public Health is working with community agencies and the City to ensure people who need to isolate are supported.  An isolation centre exists for people who are precariously housed and work is underway to create a second isolation centre for people where self-isolation may be challenging in a crowded living environment.

Currently, based on data from the last few weeks including today’s record number, Ottawa as a collective is not doing enough in the area of prevention.

Testing and contact tracing

After prevention, testing and contact tracing is used to limit transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This system is nearly broken. The volume of people seeking testing is putting a strain on every part of the detection and contact tracing process: there are not enough trained professionals to staff facilities, the laboratories have reached the limits of their machines and human resource capacities and test swabs waiting for analysis are sitting backlogged for over a week. This in turn puts public health staff behind on following up with those who test positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts, resulting in people going out into the community who may have COVID-19 without knowing it. The contact tracing team is having to prioritize follow-up with how fast the virus is spreading in our community.

There is a plan underway to increase testing and tracing capacity. Laboratories are receiving new machines and working to hire people, OPH is automating some aspects of case and contact follow-up and continuing to add to the team, but these processes take time.

Acute and long-term care

Hospitals are the service we need available, not only when the virus makes people very sick - and the number of hospitalizations has jumped today - but for other critical care.  People have put off surgeries and other medial support and are presenting with greater needs in greater numbers now. Hospitals’ capacity is limited to beds available and professionally trained staff which are stretched to maximum right now.

Some of the pressure on hospitals comes from the lack of capacity in long-term care.  People are not able to leave hospital when the number of beds and staff are at lower levels in the long-term care system. 

The lack of staff in long-term care and retirement homes is very concerning when it has an impact on their ability to control the outbreaks that we see are rising in number.  We do not want to see loved ones die in these settings. 

Again, plans are underway to create more hospital beds, staff and personal support workers in long-term care homes, which will make a difference, but these are not going to be immediately in place. The entire system is under pressure, and new resources for any of these components take weeks or months, not days to be in place.

What can be done quickly is changing our behaviour.  All residents and visitors to Ottawa, need to be doing OUR part. Prevention.

As individuals, we can act NOW to take pressure off the system which is on the edge of collapse. Data shows COVID-19 is spreading too fast in Ottawa because of everyday actions that bring too many of us in close contact with others without masks on. We are falling behind. Prevention is the only way now, TODAY, that we can slow the crisis in the rest of our health system.

As Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health  , I’m sounding the alarm. This is our warning bell. With this spike, we have entered crisis territory and if we do not slow the transmission, it will lead to stricter lockdown, closure of businesses, public venues and even schools. Nobody wants this. I do not want this. Closures have a very negative impact on the health of individuals and our community.

We have seen in other parts of the country where regional leadership have had to announce serious restrictions and consequences on activities and movements. We don’t want to go there unless we have to. Ottawa, we CAN still change course if we make those small choices today, change our behaviours and limit our close contacts to those within our household plus one or two essential supports. When you do have to be out in public, remember the basics: wear a mask, stay home when sick, stay two metres apart from others and wash your hands.

Earlier this week we spoke to where transmission is occurring in our community. It is everywhere, in every neighbourhood, and it is our individual ACTIONS that are driving the spread, regardless of setting.

Please, if you have plans to gather with friends or acquaintances this weekend, I'm asking you to reconsider. Our healthcare system...our school system.... our economy... our loved ones... are all counting on you.  Thank you for doing your part. 

Updated screening tool for students

Yesterday the Province updated their online screening tool for students. We are also updating our screening tool to make sure it aligns.

Symptoms are now divided into 2 categories.  The first category of symptoms are those highly associated with COVID-19 and children with these symptoms will be advised to isolate at home and get tested, as well all household members will be advised to also self-isolate.

The second category of symptoms are those that are commonly associated with other illnesses, such as a runny nose or headache. Depending on the number of symptoms chosen, the direction will either be for the child and household members to stay home for at least 24 hours from when the symptom started and no testing recommended (1 symptom) OR child needs to go for testing and all household members also need to self-isolate until a test result is received for the symptomatic child (2 or more symptoms).

The updated tool will be ready for parents to use before school starts on Monday. Please continue to use this tool every morning before sending your child to school.

This road has been very long already but please, we need to keep going and continue to act in small ways every hour of every day to limit the transmission of COVID.

I believe in Ottawa. I believe in us.  We can support each other to keep close contacts at a minimum. We have each other’s backs. And we will get through this difficult time.

 

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

September 30, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches and Dr Jennifer LeMessurier

There are more and more people testing positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. This is concerning - for our community, for public health, for me.

Over the last few weeks with the alarming increase of COVID, I have heard from many of you wanting to know where the transmission is coming from. Today we’re sharing information we hope will empower each and every one of us to shift behaviours and make choices to keep close contacts as low as possible.

I want to thank the vast majority of people who are limiting their close contacts.  For others, let me be clear that I mean we need to keep our close contacts to people we live with and one or two people who support us or we risk closures of businesses and schools.  When people testing positive increase exponentially as we are seeing, the disruption to society and the pressure on our hospitals and long-term care homes is too much to sustain critical services.

Earlier this week, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) in collaboration with our partners at the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study released data that shows the prevalence of COVID-19 by neighbourhood in our city. While this data helps us identify areas that may need more support, it only reflects where individuals testing positive live, not where transmission is occurring.

The majority of transmission is still occurring between close contacts in private social gatherings, however more recent data is revealing examples of exposure in other settings.

Where residents of Ottawa may be exposed to the COVID-19 virus

OPH follows up with every resident who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus and asks them who they’ve been in contact with.

When a person tests positive for the virus, our team asks questions about where they have been in the days leading up to developing symptoms, being tested, and self-isolating, so that we can try and identify where they may have come in contact with (or been exposed to) the virus.

People who test positive often list many different types of situations and locations where they may have come in contact with the virus, so it is sometimes not possible to pinpoint the exact situation where the virus was transmitted from one person to another.

Each and every one of us has an important role to play in preventing transmission in the Ottawa region, in both private and public settings. Transmission is occurring through people connected by social interactions, in complex networks across the city.

Looking across the data we have collected from residents of Ottawa who have tested positive for the virus in the first two weeks of September, we found that:

  • 1 in 2 people who test positive have been exposed to the virus through their household. It is important to note that the first person with COVID-19 in the household obtained it while in the community. 
  • 1 in 4 people who test positive are exposed to the virus from members outside of their household through social interactions in indoor or outdoor settings—this is a major driver of transmission in Ottawa and is happening at social gatherings in places like homes, backyards, cottages, short stay apartments, hotels, restaurants and bars, during events with family and friends like birthday parties, weddings, and house warmings. We are seeing these gatherings within the Ottawa region, but also learn of settings where people have been exposed by travel to Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. 
  • In people who test positive over 40 years of age, 1 in 3 people are exposed to the virus from an outbreak, in particular through an institutional setting like a long-term care home or retirement home. This underscores how the level of transmission in our community affects people at highest risk of serious illness and death from the virus.
  • While the virus that causes COVID-19 is present in every neighbourhood across Ottawa, we are also seeing that 1 in 10 people who test positive without an identified close contact may be exposed to the virus in areas where we are seeing neighborhood clusters. That being said, because this is based onwhere people live, it does not necessarily mean this is where people have ‘caught’ or acquired the virus. Exposure occurs where people congregate, and that includes workplaces and other public areas.
  • When we look overall at the early impact of school reopening and daycare attendance, we are seeing that 3 percent of people who test positive are linked to an outbreak in a school setting, but that 9 percent of people identify school as a possible exposure. We are seeing 3 percent of people who test positive identify daycare as a possible exposure. We recognize the strain that school and daycare closures are having on families, and want to thank parents and caregivers for everything that they are doing in trying to protect our children and community.

OPH has created an infographic to give you a visual of the different exposure sites in Ottawa to help paint the picture. Exposure occurs in a variety of settings. It can start anywhere in the community: indoor and outdoor gatherings, workplaces, childcare establishments, travel, long-term care homes and businesses.

Someone can bring it from the home to these settings and vice versa, and the social gatherings that we are having outside our household are leading to transmission in our long-term care homes and schools.

As more people test positive for COVID-19, there are more close contacts our case management team has to reach out to.

The best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones is by being COVIDWise.

The transmission of COVID-19 continues to occur at a concerning rate throughout our community. We can all have an impact on bending the curve by reducing the extent of our social interactions beyond our household as much as possible, whether in private or public settings. OPH is dedicated to transparency and will continue to use the data we collect to tell the story of how the virus is travelling throughout our community.

Transmission occurs through people connected by social interactions and in a variety of settings: within the home, at a school, within a long-term care setting, at a wedding, at a restaurant or bar, even outdoors.

Exposure to COVID-19 can occur anywhere people congregate. But what ties these all together is not the setting itself; it’s about the behaviour.

The best way to limit your exposure to COVID-19 is to practice physical distancing and limit your close contacts to those within your household and 1 or 2 essential supports like childcare and caregivers. Additional layers of protection include wearing a mask, staying home when sick and washing your hands regularly.

These are the basics we all need to follow. It is imperative that we get back to basics to flatten the curve again especially as we approach the winter months. Nobody wants to take a step backwards. No one wants to go back to Stage 2.

Right now, most of the people who test positive for COVID-19 are in the younger age groups so hospitalizations remain relatively stable. But the more COVID-19 transmission occurs in the community, the more difficult it will be to protect our most vulnerable. Our hospitals do not have room to handle many COVID-related hospitalizations and our long-term care homes are stretched already.

No one should ever think that their individual actions don’t matter. It takes just one person going out in public while sick to infect dozens of others and hundreds of people needing to self-isolate.

We must all keep sharing this kind of information in different ways so everyone can grasp what we are dealing with and to change behaviours today.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

September 28, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Increasing testing capacity 

Last week the Province updated their COVID testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at the greatest risk, while shifting away from untargeted asymptomatic testing. This is consistent with the guidance Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has been providing: that only those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been directed by public health should seek testing. This guidance exists so that testing capacity is best deployed to prevent and control outbreaks and identify people who need treatment and support. 

This new guidance along with increasing access to testing through pharmacies, mobile testing for schools with larger numbers of high risk contacts, and longer hours at assessment centres is helping, however, we are still seeing many people showing up to assessment centres for testing who don’t meet the recommended criteria. 

Please: if you are only seeking a COVID-19 test for peace of mind, reconsider seeking testing and be assured that if you are keeping two metres distance from others, wearing a mask indoors and keeping your hands clean, you are unlikely to encounter the COVID-19 virus. 

Attestation Letter for return to school 

We know many families are frustrated with the experience regarding the return to school for children who have experienced non-COVID related symptoms or illness, or who recovered from COVID-19. Many schools or childcare providers are denying entry to service without a medical certificate or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, which is not recommended by OPH.   

In response to this issue, OPH has developed and made available an Attestation for Return to School for Students Following Illness letter for families with children returning to school following symptoms of illness, including supporting parents to confirm that there is a non-COVID-19 reason for the symptoms.  OPH trusts parents’ assessment of their child’s health related to known underlying conditions. The letter can be downloaded by parents and guardians on the OPH Supporting Schools during COVID-19 webpage.  

Please note OPH does not require a negative test result or a medical certificate for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to go back to school, childcare or work after the isolation period has been completed and symptoms are no longer present.    

We are extremely grateful to our school partners for their continued support and cooperation.  

Be COVIDWise to keep our schools and businesses open 

Lastly, we continue to see a rising number of individuals testing positive and outbreaks in school settings are following. We are also seeing more exposures to COVID-19 in some businesses. No one wants to close schools and no one wants to see businesses close – to do so would have a detrimental impact on our community both economically and otherwise. 

At the end of the day, it’s simple: we must continue to be COVIDWise to keep COVID-19 out of schools and businesses.  

I know people miss their friends and loved ones. I know you want to see each other, and everyone has been working hard at coming up with new, safer ways to be social. 

I’m asking everyone to keep doing the right thing. If we continue to work hard now, we have a better chance at seeing the benefits of our efforts sooner. 

No action is too small. Every protective measure we can take matters to reduce the overall rate of infection in our community. 

September 25, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Keeping schools open is one of Ottawa Public Health’s top priorities. It is essential for the mental health of children, parents and guardians and it is essential for our economy so people can go back to work.

Everyone is impacted when people cannot rely on schools.

We need to continue to do the right thing to keep transmission levels low at the community level to keep COVID-19 out of schools in the first place. I know Ottawa residents can step up and take action to flatten the curve. We have done it before; we know what works and it’s not too late to bend the curve to keep our most vulnerable safe and our kids in school.

These are early days, and we are learning. Parents are learning new routines, how to screen their children and what to do if someone in their child’s school or class tests positive. School staff and school boards are learning how to deal with class, cohort and school outbreaks. We at OPH are learning more about how and where transmission is occurring and how it gets into schools.

We have the tools and the knowledge we need to navigate this. It can be scary for parents and staff, and it’s a lot of firsts. But we at OPH are here with you through every step.

Learn more about how OPH is supporting schools by visiting our website.

New FAQ on Class Section 22 Order

On Tuesday, I issued a Class Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. I know there have been some questions about what this means and how it impacts you, so we launched a new section on our website devoted to answering questions.

The order does not change any of our public health guidance. It is something we have already been issuing to individuals in rare circumstances. What’s changed is that levels of COVID-19 in the community are increasing at an alarming rate. There have been recent situations where individuals have been slow to follow public health guidance.

By issuing this order, we will be able to act more quickly and efficiently when needed rather than drafting individual orders each time. It allows us to act swiftly and provide education in a more efficient manner.

We know people will continue to do the right thing when they have the right information.

I want to assure residents that this order doesn’t change OPH’s approach to support people who are testing positive for COVID-19. If you are required to self-isolate but are worried you don’t have the resources to do so, our public health nurses will connect you with the City’s Human Needs Task Force to make sure you have the supports you need.

Updated provincial guidance on testing

Yesterday the Province updated their COVID testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at the greatest risk, while shifting away from untargeted asymptomatic testing. This is consistent with the guidance OPH has been providing: that only those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been directed by public health should seek testing. This guidance exists so that the people who genuinely need testing have greater access.

Testing centres will remind people seeking testing of the new provincial testing guidelines. When these new guidelines are fully implemented, you will be turned away from assessment centres if you do not meet the provincial criteria.

The best defense against COVID-19 is prevention. Be COVIDWise: Wear a mask, Isolate when you’re sick, Stay two metres away from others outside your household and Exercise proper hand hygiene.

Download the COVID Alert app

Earlier this summer, the federal and provincial governments launched the COVID Alert app to help alert Ontarians of potential exposure to COVID-19.

A lot has changed since the summer so we continue to urge everyone to download the app.

The COVID Alert app lets you know if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  It also provides access to the most up-to-date public health advice and resources to anyone who receives a message that they may have been exposed to the virus. This includes recommended actions, such as: get tested, self-isolate or monitor for symptoms. 

The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be in helping to stop the spread. For more information on the app visit canada.ca.

It’s looking to be a beautiful weekend. If you’re feeling healthy, I encourage you to get outdoors and enjoy the fall weather with your close contacts. Be sure to be COVIDWise and social wise at all times. Take a deep breath. We’re going to be ok.

 

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

 September 22, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Today, we are reporting that 93 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, the highest number in a single day since April.  

The overall goals of our response to the pandemic are to prevent the level of COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa from disrupting society detrimentally and to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.  This level of virus in our community is too high for these purposes.  The people testing positive for COVID-19 linked to schools and long-term care homes is leading to disruption for families and workplaces and to deaths in at least one long-term care home at this point. We need to bend the curve down now. 

Many of the people testing positive are in the 20 to 39 age group, and we are seeing more school-aged children test positive with their exposures in the community.  Forty percent of people aged 20 to 39 who became ill in recent weeks acquired COVID-19 while in close contact with someone outside their household. Common examples including indoor social gatherings such as parties, gatherings at cottages and Airbnbs, and outdoor gatherings where people are close together.

In light of the increase in community transmission, and in light of recent situations with slow adherence to public health guidance, I am officially invoking a Class Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act that stipulates that any person that tests positive for COVID-19, has signs and symptoms of COVID-19, is a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, has been tested for COVID-19 and awaiting a test result or otherwise has reasonable grounds to believe they have COVID-19 must self-isolate without delay. These individuals must remain in isolation for 14 days, unless COVID-19 is ruled out, and they must do everything they can to avoid exposing other people to COVID-19. 

Failure to comply with this Order could result in a fine of up to $5,000.00 for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues. While we have issued individual Section 22 orders previously to facilitate obtaining a list of close contacts, we have not had to take anyone to court.  When people understand we have the authority to collect this information, we protect their privacy when reaching out to contacts, and we are here to support them and protect the community, we have received the information we need.  Because the numbers of people we are working with has increased so much, a class order will support timely escalation when needed. 

Details of this order can be found on our website

I don’t take these types of decisions lightly; however, I must do everything possible to reduce the transmission that is currently occurring in Ottawa. We must once again plank the curve through our actions and this order is another intervention that targets the increasing non-adherence with the basic prevention measures such as staying home when you have symptoms. Self-isolation of ill people ensures that the virus will not be passed on to others. 

As of today, there have been 34 schools in Ottawa that have had an individual that tested positive for COVID-19 while they attended the schools setting. And, we are reporting our second outbreak in a school.  

Ottawa Public Health continues to work closely with the school principals and is reaching out to close contacts directly to provide direction on isolation and instruction on testing, including information on how and when to get tested for COVID-19. Only people contacted by OPH should seek testing.  

Residents of Ottawa must continue to do their part to keep transmission in the community low to help stop COVID-19 from entering schools and long-term care homes in the first place. We have seen how one gathering can result in many individuals testing positive for COVID-19, and over 100 people needing to isolate and present for testing. Keep your close contacts to members of your household and essential supports, like grandparents or childcare providers or important friends or neighbours.  Visiting with others must be with distance and masks when indoors or unable to distance.

I understand the frustration and anxiety parents and school staff are facing when it comes to our schools and whether to keep them open.  We have a collective goal to keep them open.

Closing schools would have a significant, negative impact on the community.  As I have said since this summer, we need to balance the risk of COVID-19 transmission with mitigating other harms to the well-being of children, youth, families, school staff and the broader community. We are all impacted when people cannot rely on schools to support childhood development and economic activity as we usually have.  

I want to assure parents that the OPH school team and infection prevention and control team are debriefing with school boards to continuously improve the response.  We continue to collaborate with local school boards and organizations to implement provincial standards and guidance. Alongside our school board partners, OPH is addressing ongoing questions and concerns of families, school staff and students regarding COVID-19, ensuring we provide the most current information possible.  To date, we have received very positive feedback about the school nurses from all four school boards, as these nurses deal with a myriad of questions from school principals, teachers, staff and parents. 

More information on how OPH is supporting schools can be found on our website

Part of the challenge to families right now is the limited access to testing for symptomatic children and the time it takes to get the result.  I am recommending that local testing partners establish a coordinated communications approach, including a centralized website in support of their operations, in order to provide up-to-date information such as locations of testing facilities, hours of operation, and contact information for residents who have questions or concerns. We are also recommending expanded hours of operation to 12hrs/day, 7 days a week, with additional testing capacity going to schools, supporting existing testing sites, responding to neighbourhood clusters identified through epidemiological data, and expanding access across the geography of our large city. 

However, simply increasing the number of swabs taken is now leading to delays of up to a week for results. This is why I am asking that priority be given to people with symptoms and referral from public health.  

To the parents of Ottawa: I hear you. We are still in the early days and we are still learning about keeping COVID out of schools. But we know one thing for sure: we must keep levels of COVID-19 transmission low at the community level to keep it out of schools and long-term care homes, to limit societal disruption and deaths.

We are in this together. Together we will make it through this time of stress and uncertainty with a focus on keeping each other as safe as possible.

  Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 Order for Self-Isolation
 

Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 Order for Self-Isolation

What is a COVID-19 class order?
The "class order" directs people to stay home and self-isolate until they are not contagious. The purpose is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and protect the health of everyone in Ottawa.
What is the goal of this order?
The goal of this order is to provide authority to obtain information from circumstances that may lead to COVID-19 spread and in the rare circumstances to hold individuals who are unreasonably ignoring the Public Health guidance and knowingly putting others at risk.
Can Ottawa Public Health issue a class order, and how long will it be in effect?
The provincial Health Protection & Promotion Act allows the Medical Officer of Health to issue a "class order." The order was issued on September 22, 2020, and is in effect until the Medical Officer of Health declares it is no longer needed.
Who does the class order apply to?

The class order is directed to:

  • People with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • People in recent close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. This includes caregivers and household members. 
How long must people self-isolate for?
Self-isolation is usually for 14 days from the day the person's symptoms began (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat). Sometimes people are asked to stay home longer, depending on their symptoms and test results.
Can some people be exempted from the class order?
Some essential service workers, who are close contacts with no symptoms may be permitted to work. However, they must self-isolate at home when they are not working or travelling to/from work. Exceptions may also be made for people leaving domestic violence. Ottawa Public Health will review exceptions for each situation.
People can still go for medical appointments when they are in self-isolation. Contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 for instructions before going to a medical clinic or hospital.
How does self-isolation work?
Self-isolation means staying at home or in an isolation facility. Do not go outside or have visitors. Avoid close contact with others. Shop online or have someone pick up supplies for you. If you need support with groceries, prescriptions or other services, please call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 for advice.
Keep as much distance as possible from the people you live with. Use a separate bathroom and bedroom, if you have one. When sharing rooms, open windows for good airflow. See how to self-isolate.
People who are homeless, do not have adequate housing, or feel unsafe at home will be provided temporary shelter.
What happens if someone does not self-isolate?
A person who ignores the class order to self-isolate can be charged and fined up to $5,000 per day. Police may be called to assist.
Can someone legally challenge the class order?
The person listed in the class order can challenge it by appealing to the Health Services Appeal and Review Board: http://www.hsarb.on.ca/scripts/english/contact.asp.
“Mild” Symptoms

Many have expressed concern over having to self-isolate/get tested for “sniffles” or “mild symptoms”.   It is important to note that at this moment we cannot rule out that those symptoms are not COVID-19.  Those mild symptoms can easily result in community spread and harm others.  For more information on COVID-19 symptoms please refer to our webpage

September 18, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

The current testing situation in Ottawa this week has been challenging. This isn’t easy for anyone. I hear the frustrations, and I feel them too.

We don’t want to deter those who genuinely need to be tested with long wait times and the burden of having to manage childcare or missing work. And, we don’t want individuals to end up going to work or school having unknowingly transmitted COVID-19 because they didn’t get tested.

Our hospital partners are working incredibly hard to increase testing capacity in the city. And I want to acknowledge the incredible, heroic work of hospital staff who are working the testing sites since they opened in March having not let up since. We can’t take away from that. These staff are people too, taking time away from their families and loved ones, and they are here for us.

I am pleased by Ontario Health’s recent announcement about new mobile testing sites in Ottawa. These two sites being piloted at two Ottawa schools will help families and staff who have been previously identified as close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and have not yet been able to receive testing.

The Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee is working on more solutions like this.

I appreciate that evolving guidance has been challenging. As Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, my job is to provide clear guidance on who should be tested, and who shouldn’t.

We are looking at ways to make this clearer through a variety of channels including social media, our website, through infographics... and I am relying on you, our media partners, to help us get this message out.

I know it’s not always black and white, but the simplest way I can put this is: Ottawa Public Health is currently recommending testing for those showing new symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have been instructed by OPH to seek testing.

There are a lot of “what ifs”, so let me try to address those.

If someone in your household becomes ill with symptoms, everyone in the household should self-isolate but only the person with symptoms should be tested. Others in the household do not need to be tested unless they have COVID symptoms or have been instructed to go for testing by OPH. However, they do need to stay home until the original test comes back negative.

If you or your child develops symptoms, including something like a runny nose, and you choose to not be tested for COVID-19, you/they will have to stay home from work or school for 14 days. You should not return to work or school until you are symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

If you are contacted by OPH because your child is considered a close contact of someone else who tested positive, your child will have to self-isolate for 14 days from the time they were in contact with the person who has COVID-19. Your child should get tested after five days, or as soon as symptoms appear. If your child does not have symptoms, other members of the household do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms. If there are siblings without symptoms, they can go back to school.

If you receive an emailed letter from your child’s school because someone who works or attends the school tested positive, no further action is required if you do not hear from OPH directly by email or phone. Your child can continue to attend school and does not need to be tested unless they are instructed to do so by OPH. In the event of a school outbreak, the same follow-up recommendations would occur. OPH will tell you when to self-isolate and seek testing.

I know there will continue to be questions, and we will work as best as we can to provide answers. I do encourage everyone to visit our website – both our main COVID-19 page and our special page for information on how we’re supporting schools which include frequently asked questions on when to seek testing and self-isolate.

September 15, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Alan Forster, The Ottawa Hospital

I’d like to begin by telling you what is being done to increase the region’s testing capacity. We know people are frustrated by the long lines and we hear you. None of us want this. Believe me.  

These waits tell us that, with the COVID-19 surge we’re seeing now, the expansion of services so far is not enough. We have recently increased staffing and added a new site, and there is quite a bit more in the works.  

Because Ottawa continues to have a large portion of the new provincial cases, we will continue to build capacity. But we also need the residents of Ottawa to continue to wear masks, physical distance, and to stay home from work or school if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.   

I am here on behalf of The Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee, which is coordinating these testing efforts. This committee is made up of health-care partners throughout the region. It includes hospitals in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health, Paramedics and other partners in care. Our work is based on guidance provided by Ontario Health, as part of carrying out the government’s testing strategy. 

As we shared yesterday, we have seen record-setting volumes at the COVID-19 testing sites in recent days. We knew that in Stage 3 and with kids returning to school we could see these volumes. To prepare, we have tripled staffing in the last month for testing children and youth at the centre. More are being trained and still more are being hired. 

Additional staff are being trained to extend hours of operation at the Brewer Assessment Centre by 4 hours/day, to 12 hours of operation, 7 days/week. The hours for the drive-through Assessment Centre on Coventry Rd. will be extended as well, and the technical issues related to the booking system have been resolved. The extended hours will begin as soon as the staff are trained and we aim for that to occur within a week. We will be letting people know with your help and through social media when those new hours are in effect. 

We are also looking to expand the hours for the Care Clinics run by Hôpital Montfort and the Queensway Carleton Hospital, and are exploring options for an additional testing site. 

In terms of the long lines- the new drive-thru facility at Coventry road is based on online booking. The IT issues have been resolved and we are now considering how to roll out the online booking at Brewer. 

We have mobile testing capacity. So, if there is an outbreak in a school, we can send a mobile unit to that school to do the testing. In the meantime, that capacity is added to what we can offer at Brewer. 

This brings me to a call to action I have for the community. We are actively seeking health-care professionals, perhaps retired nurses, who would be willing to join the effort to combat COVID-19. The region’s ability to increase testing capacity and open more testing sites is affected by the human resource pool that is available. The pandemic means there is increased demand for the care providers we are seeking to staff the testing facilities. That finite human resource pool is now providing more care in hospitals, staffing more in long-term care homes and there are more nurses in schools. This is all essential work. So, if there are health-care retirees willing to join the effort, they would be more than welcome as we look to build additional testing capacity. 

It would be helpful to understand the reasons why we test: 

  • to diagnose people who have COVID-19 symptoms, so that they have access to any treatment or advice they need; and know to remain in strict isolation until they are no longer infectious to others 
  • to perform contact tracing and follow the spread throughout the community, to ensure that anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 is aware of their options 
  • to proactively identify cases amongst high-risk populations, including long-term care homes. 

We are working day and night to increase our ability to test people and to create additional capacity in the local lab to get folks timely results.  

The testing strategy continues to evolve and tomorrow the CCRC will be speaking with city councilors to continue the collaborative nature of this historic effort.  

There is a lot in the works, and we want to do more. I hope to have more we can tell you about in the near future. We all want what is best for those who need care and who need testing. But we also need everyone to help. Let’s do everything we can to bring down our infection rates, so Ottawa isn’t a hotspot. Wash your hands, physically distance, wear your masks and stay home if you aren’t well. It all makes a difference, and everyone can make that difference.

September 15, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Over the last several days, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has seen an increase in the number of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. On Monday, OPH reported 61 new cases and today we are reporting 52 new cases – we haven’t seen numbers this high since May.

I have three very clear and important messages today:

The first one isn’t new, however it can’t be said enough and I am concerned some have forgotten: we must limit our close contacts. Close contacts are people that we see, particularly indoors, without masks on, where two metres distance is not kept, for more than 15 minutes.Provincial guidance limits “social circles” to 10 people however it may not be clear to people that groups of 10 cannot mix with other circles without greatly increasing risk of COVID-19 transmission. And, less is better. My strong recommendation is to prioritize your household members and any essential supports such as childcare help or grandparents. Keep your distance, wear masks and stay outside with anyone else. I have been talking with the province about how to provide clear direction that without these layers of protection our social gatherings must be smaller.

Where is the increase coming from? While it takes time to investigate the source of transmission and identify trends, it is clear that a large proportion of transmission is occurring primarily in private social gatherings such as parties and large family get-togethers where you may come in close contact with multiple people.

We all need to reassess our behaviours. We’ve seen how just one person with cold-like symptoms who attends a small get-together can lead to 40 people testing positive in a short period of time. Today, I’m asking you to check in regarding your social behaviours. Ask yourself how many close contacts you’ve had recently (again, close contacts are those you spend time with less than two metres apart with no mask or other precautions in place). Are you spending time with these same people every day, or different groups? Do you have an understanding with your close contacts not to have other close contacts outside your group, or, are you potentially connected to a long chain of transmission?
I know parents may be asking how limiting close contacts matters if their children are attending school in person, where it seems contacts are already increased; however, these settings have extra precautions in place. If you have children attending school in-person, you need to increase precautions your family takes outside the school setting. Large gatherings with close contacts, even with the same school friends, are not a good idea. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach. Each decision we make to reduce risk helps. Our collective actions are what adds up to keep our community safe. 

My second message is that OPH is currently only recommending COVID-19 testing for those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. We are hearing of very long wait times at testing sites and we need to prioritize testing for those who have symptoms or are close contacts who have been instructed by public health to get tested. We need the laboratories to have the capacity to be able to provide rapid turn-around times to manage outbreaks and school exposures quickly.

The purpose of a test is to determine if you have COVID-19 so we can provide information on treatment, identify close contacts and prevent further spread. Instead of engaging in activities that give you a concern that you might need testing, please rethink the things you are doing and with whom, to reduce your risk and testing.

Together with our hospital partners, we are working on ways to adapt the testing strategy to meet the needs of the community as the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic changes. Improving access to testing for children and families is a priority to keep people in school.

My third and final message is we are concerned about the rise of individuals testing positive in long-term care settings. When there is more COVID-19 in the community, the risk of it entering LTCHs, where death is a devastating outcome, increases. OPH recognizes the substantial challenges facilities face in safeguarding residents, staff, family and essential visitors. However, strict adherence to infection prevention and control best practices and outbreak management guidelines is essential to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and other illness among our most vulnerable. We continue to work closely with the province and owners of long-term care homes to ensure the guidance on outbreak management is clear and carried out in a timely manner.

OPH is seeing an increase in the number of Ottawans who test positive and in the number of close contacts people have. We are seeing an increase in outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes. And there has been an increase in deaths. We must act collectively to counter these increases. The decisions we make and the actions we take today will directly impact our situation in the near future.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch
September 11, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches
It’s hard to believe it’s been six months since we announced the first individual who tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. The fear about contracting the virus when going out has been countered with evidence that if we practice physical distancing, wear a mask, stay home when sick and keep our hands clean, we are unlikely to see transmission of the virus. The fear of not enough masks and not enough hospital space has been addressed with better supply chains and contingency plans and the preventative behaviours of all of us. The uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last has given way to recognition that we are living with a constant risk of resurgence for the next year or more.

We know the virus has caused significant hardship to families and businesses, so we are resolved to enable schools to open and people to work and to continue social supports. We have learned that social isolation is unsustainable and we must find ways to stay connected to older adults in our communities. Now is still a time to keep our social contacts limited and invest in the relationships of people closest to us. I am hopeful that with our COVIDWise actions in place, limiting community transmission, we will come through the next six months stronger together.

Supporting a safer back-to-school

We have another week of back-to-school under our belts. Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) COVID-19 school support team continues to work closely with all four of Ottawa’s school boards and school staff to support a safer return to school.

Unfortunately, we have already seen individuals who work at or attend schools test positive for COVID-19. However, to date, no outbreaks in schools have been declared because transmission of the virus occurred in the community, not in the schools.

Our case management team is working hard to reach individuals who test positive and their close contacts to ensure everyone knows the next steps they need to take. And we are working with school boards to ensure there are clear protocols for assigned seating so entire busloads of students don't need to be isolated because of potential exposure.

I want to make this very clear: if someone in your household has symptoms that could be COVID-19, all household members in close contact must stay home until that person tests negative or 14 days have passed (the whole family does not need to be tested in this instance). This added precaution in Ottawa is key to keeping COVID-19 out of schools.

Daily screening is another way we can make schools safer for children, youth and staff. Parents and students can use our COVID-19 Screening Tool for Students which is available in seven languages. Make it part of your morning routine.

And speaking of routine, we’ve received questions about precautions students and school staff can take when returning home from school. What’s most important is washing your hands and cleaning or properly disposing of your mask (information on proper mask cleaning can be found on our website). You can also leave your shoes at the door and wash or disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, faucets, light switches and lunchboxes.

Have your say

This isn’t a one-way conversation; we continue to welcome feedback from residents about how COVID-19 is affecting your life including your long-term aspirations and concerns living with the virus. Visit Engage.Ottawa.ca/Covid19 to have your say. Your feedback will continue to help us develop a recovery plan that meets the needs and expectations of our community.

COVID-19 and stigma

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a rise in stigma and prejudice against people who have the virus. This stigma can provoke discriminatory behaviours because of a perceived link with the disease. OPH has developed a position statement on stigma and COVID-19 to address the stigma and prejudice in our community against those who have the COVID-19 virus, people who are thought to be carriers of the virus based on appearance and people who are thought to be from areas where the COVID-19 virus originated. 

Some solutions include using person-first language. Instead of referring to a COVID case, we say “individual who has tested positive for COVID-19". We can also speak positively, and recognize that the reasons people test positive for COVID-19 are often beyond their control, as people’s need to work and inability to self-isolate may be challenges that increase risk of exposure. We need to point people to supports that exist and we can correct myths, rumours and stereotypes. More ideas can be found within our statement which is available on our website. Let’s work together to keep our community free from stigma.

COVID-19 and mental health

As always, I encourage everyone to check in regularly on your own mental health. Try to unplug and find a balance. Know that you are not in this alone. Try to stay active and get outdoors. And talk to someone. It’s OK to not be OK. Visit our website for more information and resources.

September 8, 2020 - Position statement on stigma and COVID-19

Ottawa Public Health has developed a position statement on stigma and COVID-19 to address the stigma and prejudice in our community against those who have the COVID-19 virus, people who are thought to be carriers of the virus based on appearance, and people who are thought to be from areas where the COVID-19 virus originated.   

We encourage you to review the position statement and follow the recommendations included so that we can all work together to keep our community healthy and free from stigma. 

September 4, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

This week Ottawa surpassed 3,000 lab-confirmed positive tests of COVID-19. More young people are testing positive for COVID-19, however, we continue to see positive results in all age groups and across the city.

Recently, Ottawa experienced a concerning increase in the number of persons being diagnosed with COVID-19 linked to indoor gatherings (e.g. parties) and behaviours that have demonstrated a relaxation of COVID-19 precautions.

Earlier this week, I issued an open letter to post-secondary students welcoming them to the community and encouraging everyone to continue to do their part to keep COVID-19 transmission low. The letter highlights important information for students new and returning to Ottawa, including the importance of being COVIDWise, OPH resources, the City’s Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law, limits and recommendations for social gatherings and requirements for international students. It also references a variety of resources for students not related to COVID-19, including our youth portal The Link and mental health, nutritional and sexual health resources.

We look forward to continuing to engage with our post-secondary community.

Supporting a safer back-to-school

The start to school is different this year as OPH works with school boards, school staff and families towards a safer back-to-school experience.

I invite you to watch this short video  where I answer some of the most common questions from parents and caregivers as they start the school year.

COVID-19 screening tool for students

Active screening of children and staff will play a key role in keeping COVID-19 out of schools. OPH has updated the screening tool for parents to use each day to help monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

New testing site and when to get tested

OPH is currently recommending testing for people showing symptoms of COVID-19 and people who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Testing for students, teachers and school staff before returning to school is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. A full list of symptoms can be found on our website.

Earlier today, The Ottawa Hospital in partnership with OPH and the City of Ottawa opened a new COVID-19 drive-thru assessment centre on Coventry Road. This new site will help increase testing capacity across the city. This is an out-of-hospital testing site where people with pre-booked appointments can get tested by a healthcare provider from their cars. Please note you must book an appointment before visiting this site. More information is available on our website. OPH and healthcare partners are currently exploring additional access points for testing.

As we enter September, a month of new beginnings for many in our community, I am reflecting on the last six months since COVID-19 arrived. In that time, we've learned a lot and continue to learn new things every day. This is a new virus and we've been doing our best to make the best decisions we can based on rapidly evolving information. We know what works; we simply have to apply these principles to new settings. We can avoid more drastic measures by keeping the level of COVID-19 manageable. 

I am grateful for all who have helped with the return to school and the supports they provide to students, families and the community.  We must balance the risk of COVID-19 transmission with mitigating other harms to the well-being of children, youth, families, school staff and the broader community. We are all impacted when people cannot rely on schools to support childhood development and economic activity as we usually have.

We will get through this, Ottawa, and every one of us here at OPH will be there with you every step of the way.
September 2, 2020 - An open letter to post-secondary students from Dr. Vera Etches

Dear new and returning students,

On behalf of Ottawa Public Health (OPH), welcome to what we all know is going to be a unique school experience. COVID-19 has required some significant shifts in the way we live our lives, and we need to continue to rely on the collective efforts of our neighbours, partners, families, roommates and friends to keep community transmission low here in Ottawa. Everyone needs to do their part.

Over the last number of months, the Ottawa community has worked together to prioritize the safety and well-being of others. For those of you who have been part of these efforts – thank you for your dedication and adherence to public health guidelines. OPH is proud to be part of such an engaged and responsible community. For those who are new or returning to Ottawa, whether this is your first experience away from home or another year on your academic journey, the expectation is that you join our efforts to control the spread of the virus. We are in this together!

Please note that OPH provides the most up-to date information on a special section of our website – OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus, and through our social media channels. OPH continues to encourage all residents to be COVIDWise and practice the following precautions:   

W– Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet)

I– Isolate yourself from others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms).  

S– Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household.  

E– Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly and use sanitizer especially before touching your face. 

As you get settled into your new environment and establish your new routine, OPH would like to ensure you’re aware of the following information that is relevant to student life in Ottawa:

Mandatory Mask Bylaw in effect

There is a Mandatory Mask Bylaw in effect for enclosed public spaces in Ottawa. This Bylaw applies to public transportation, restaurants, bars, stores, and other enclosed public spaces, with exemptions. The bylaw also extends to the common and shared areas of multi-unit dwellings, including residence and apartment buildings, as well as taxis and ride shares. Failure to adhere to the provisions set out in the Mandatory Mask Bylaw can result in tickets being issued. OPH has been working with your school’s administration to ensure preparedness for the Fall semester. As mandatory masking policies have been implemented for all students on campus, please be sure to review your school’s policy prior to arriving on site.

OPH also wants to remind you that not everyone can safely wear a mask, and that we should all continue to be COVIDKind and show compassion and understanding towards individuals who are exempt from wearing a mask due to medical reasons.

For more information about masks, please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/masks and consult your institution’s mask policy.

Gatherings

Though this is normally a celebratory time of year for students to reconnect and make new friends, you must continue to be SocialWise to limit your close contacts: keep gathering numbers as small as possible, ensure physical distancing, meet outside rather than inside, wear masks, wash your hands often and stay home if you are ill. Both on and off campus, gathering limits remain in place. While indoor gatherings over 50 people, and outdoor gatherings over 100 people are not permitted, much smaller groups, with physical distancing measures in place, are preferred. There is zero tolerance and Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services are actively enforcing these gathering limits, with fines being issued for non-compliance.  OPH encourages you to limit the number of people in your social circle to reduce the risk of further transmission.

Check out OPH’s tips for how to party more safely while being COVIDWise.

Increase in Cases

Recently, Ottawa has experienced a concerning increase in the number of persons being diagnosed with  COVID-19. 
These results have been linked to indoor gatherings (e.g. parties) and behaviours that have demonstrated a relaxation of COVID-19 precautions. The 20 to 29 age group now has the highest number of people who tested positive for COVID-19  in Ottawa. It is important that you follow the COVIDWise precautions to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus. People do not always feel sick when they have the COVID-19 virus.

The criteria and locations for when and where you can get tested for COVID-19, are available on the OPH website

What happens when someone tests positive?

Students who test positive for COVID-19, or who are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:

a)    Are required to self-isolate.

b)    Will be contacted by an OPH case manager for next steps and to answer your questions.

International Students

Ottawa is pleased to welcome students from all over the world. Students who are new or returning to Ottawa and arriving from international destinations are required to adhere to the 14-day isolation period set-out by the federal  Quarantine Act. For more information, consult the supports available through your institution for international students.

Multilingual Resources

OPH has developed multilingual resources for diverse communities , as well as resources for First Nations, Inuit and Métis community members.

Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Services

OPH continues to offer sexual health services at our 179 Clarence Street location. As well, harm reduction services (including supervised consumption services) are also offered at this location. For information about opioids and overdoses, please visit StopOverdoseOttawa.ca.

Mental Health

We are all in this together. COVID-19 has understandably caused a lot of anxiety and apprehension for many people. It is ok not to be ok. For mental health supports, please visit OPH’s Mental Health and COVID-19 page as well as your institution’s students support services.

Be Prepared

Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. The campus where you study has an emergency plan; however, you play a big role in ensuring your own safety! Be prepared: keep extra masks handy, write down important contact numbers, consider storing non-perishable food, extra water and basic essentials. In an emergency, such as a power failure, and if you had to isolate for 14 days, these would be essential.

We understand the pandemic will present unique challenges specific to your academic and social experience at university and college. We thank you for your continued efforts in taking the necessary precautions to minimize transmission of the virus and protect the whole community by being COVIDWise..

Have a great year!

Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health 
Ottawa Public Health
August 28, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

On Wednesday this week, Ottawa City Council voted to extend the temporary mask by-law until October 31. The by-law was also amended to include mandatory masks in additional enclosed spaces, such as taxis and rideshares, the common areas and shared services of condos, apartment and multi-residential buildings, and the option of establishing mandatory mask zones in crowded outdoor areas where physical distancing is difficult.

Wearing masks correctly helps control the spread of COVID-19 in our community and is associated with less deaths. Since the original decision to implement the temporary by-law on July 15, most residents of Ottawa have embraced masking practices, and understand it is one of the tools we have to minimize COVID-19 transmission. These latest amendments were in response to public input about gaps in protection in our community, and will help limit the spread of the virus as children and youth go back to school, and businesses continue to reopen. It is incredibly important to keep COVID-19 transmission as low as possible in our community, to minimize the risk of it being introduced in schools and long-term care homes.

Masks should be well fitted, comfortable, washed regularly, and properly put on, taken off and stored.

Masks should also be used in addition to other protective measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and staying home if you are sick. Be sure to visit OPH’s FAQs and guidance about masks on our website.

Please remember that not everyone is able to wear a mask. We must continue to be kind to each other as we navigate these difficult times.

In our letter this week to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), OPH recommended that younger students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 should not be discouraged from wearing a mask if they are tolerated and if they are able to wear them properly. While there is lots of evidence to support the benefits of mask use for the general population, limited information is currently available on the benefits of mandatory masks for younger children.

The size and fit of masks for children is important and OPH recommends practicing at home to get used to them. For those who can only tolerate a mask for a short period of time, schools and parents should prioritize situations such as drop off and pick up when physical distancing may be a challenge. Once we’ve gained experience from voluntary masks with younger children, the question of making them mandatory may be revisited.

The majority of new people diagnosed with COVID-19 are from close contacts and household transmission

The data tells us we are not seeing COVID-19 transmission where people are wearing masks – that is excellent news! To date, there have been no known outbreaks directly linked to bars, restaurants, gym facilities or other business establishments where people gather and where masks are currently mandated under the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law.

Where we are seeing COVID-19 transmission is mostly linked to close contacts.  It includes settings such as your home, visiting loved ones or friends, where familiarity and comfort make it easier to let your guard down. Remember that anyone can be infected with COVID-19 and they may not know that they are transmitting the virus – even your family and friends.  

New COVID-19 screening tool and other resources for students and parents

This week, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) released its new screening tool for students. This screening tool will help parents and guardians make that important daily decision of whether or not their child should attend school. Active screening of children and school employees will play a key role in keeping COVID-19 out of schools. Screening should be done every day and this tool can be used as often as you like. No personal information is requested or tracked when using the tool, which means that you and/or your child cannot be personally identified or linked to your responses. Its sole purpose is to assist in decision-making.  If you have more questions about your child’s health, it is recommended that you contact a healthcare provider.  

For school staff, a separate health screening questionnaire is available on our website.

Multilingual resources

In the continued effort to prepare for back to school and to reach as many of our residents as possible, OPH is using different channels to connect with the diverse communities attending Ottawa schools. We will be issuing public service announcements on a local radio station in multiple languages to address various topics of interest, including the return to school, how to support a safer return to school, what happens if your child is a close contact of someone infected with COVID-19, and how to maintain and limit your social circle. OPH continues to work in partnership with school boards to reach families in various languages.

Multilingual Resources for Diverse Communities During COVID-19 continue to be available on our website including videos, posters, factsheets and other resources. OPH recently collaborated with Refugee613 to develop Multilingual mandatory mask videos. Also new on our page are Staying Safe During COVID-19 Multilingual Videos. Receiving critical information in your language of choice helps us to make informed decisions about our health and well-being, especially during COVID-19. OPH will continue to update these resources as more information becomes available.

OPH is also thrilled to share these new COVID-19 videos in American Sign Language and la langue des signes québécoise to support the Deaf.

It’s OK to not be OK

COVID-19 has impacted everyone differently, and we continue to hear about the negative mental health impacts from business owners, employers, employees, parents, children and youth and older adults.  Help is available. Please continue to check OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDMentalHealth for mental health information for all ages.

This weekend, I hope you take time to take care of your mental health by being active and spending time outdoors. Try to unplug when you can and reach out for help when you need it.  Let’s continue to do our part caring for neighbours and looking out for each other by wearing a mask, washing hands often, keeping at least 2m of distance from others and staying home when you feel unwell. Thank you for your continued efforts to support a safer city of Ottawa. 

August 21, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

As students and staff return to the classroom, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) continues to work with school boards, staff, parents and guardians, and children and youth to have ongoing conversations about a safer return to school. Our aim is to keep transmission as low as possible in schools and this will continue to be a community-wide effort.

Active screening of children and staff will play a key role in keeping COVID-19 out of schools. OPH is currently working on a screening tool for parents to use each day to help monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. This tool will be available on our back-to-school website before the start of the school year. School staff can use the health screening questionnaire already on our website.

If you notice symptoms and are unsure whether it might be COVID-19 or an underlying condition like asthma or allergies, you should speak to a healthcare provider who can help you decide if and when a test should be done.

Addressing the “what if” scenarios

We continue to receive many “what if” questions from parents and caregiversWhat if my child tests positive for COVID-19? What if someone in my child’s class or school tests positive? What happens if there is an outbreak in my child’s school?

Please know that you will not be left to guess the answers. OPH continues to be there every step of the way as we navigate this new territory. We are hiring 36 public health nurses to assist schools with everything from setup to hygiene recommendations, outbreak prevention and guidance if necessary.

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, they will need to stay home and self-isolate for at least 14 days. An OPH nurse will contact you to determine who else inside or outside of the home needs to self-isolate or be tested. Every situation is unique and you will be supported by public health professionals along the way.

Your child can return to school after:

  • they have completed at least 14 days of self-isolation.
  • they have had no fever for 72 hours.
  • their symptoms have been improving for at least 72 hours.

Note: a doctor’s note or a repeat COVID-19 test is not required for your child to return to school.

If someone in a school setting tests positive for COVID-19 and your child is a close contact, an OPH case manager will contact you directly to let you know and advise you to access COVID-19 testing at the appropriate time. If your child is not a close contact, they do not need to be tested and can continue attending school as long as they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

An outbreak would be confirmed in a school when, after investigation, it is found that there are:

  • at least two positive cases in a school.
  • transmission from one person to another is thought to have happened at the school.

All school outbreaks will be disclosed on the OPH daily dashboard available on our website. If there is an outbreak in your child’s school, OPH will reach out to parents and guardians of close contacts to let them know next steps which include staying home, monitoring for symptoms and testing if appropriate.

Please continue to watch for updates from your school board and check our school webpage regularly for the latest guidance and resources. This will be updated as new information becomes available.

How to wear and care for your mask

OPH continues to encourage mask use when indoors, including in workplaces and areas not covered by the City’s Temporary Mask By-law. As more people transition back to the workplace, it is important for employers and employees to keep up with physical distancing and hand hygiene, and we strongly recommend wearing a mask indoors in high traffic and common areas, especially when appropriate distancing is not possible.

Like any piece of clothing, cloth masks will get dirty and it is important to wash them regularly after use. For machine washing, you can wash the masks with other laundry using a hot water cycle. For hand washing, use laundry detergent and water as hot as it is safe. Wash, rinse and then dry thoroughly.

For children wearing masks to school, anticipate a nightly hand-wash of the mask or rotating between a number of masks if possible. Remember to never touch the inside of your mask when putting it on and taking it off, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after handling masksOPH has important resources to show how to safely put on and remove a mask and additional frequently asked questions on our website.

The next phase of engagement

OPH wants to hear from the community about how COVID-19 has affected you. The next phase of our public engagement strategy, which launched today, focuses on the mandatory mask by-law, gatherings, high-risk sectors, schools, innovation in businesses and looking ahead.

Let’s keep the conversation going: Visit engage.ottawa.ca/covid19 to have your say.

August 18, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

It’s no question that the last couple of weeks have been a very stressful time for parents and school staff. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) will continue to be involved with back-to-school plans and the ongoing conversation with the Province, our school boards and school staff, parents and guardians and children and youth with the goal of keeping COVID-19 transmission as low as possible.

With back to school around the corner, OPH is getting questions about when or if parents should have their children tested for COVID-19 infection.

OPH is currently recommending testing for those showing symptoms of COVID-19 – this is the most important reason to be tested. Those who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 who do not have symptoms should also be tested. Testing your child before returning to school is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms because it is extremely unlikely to find an active COVID-19 infection.  For the same reason, teachers and school staff do not need to be tested before returning to school.

Testing only provides information about one point in time. Additionally, a negative test is not a guarantee that one doesn’t have COVID-19 because a person will likely test negative in the first few days after an exposure to COVID-19.

If someone in a school setting tests positive for COVID-19 and your child is a close contact, an OPH case manager will contact you directly to let you know and advise you to access COVID-19 testing at the appropriate time. Otherwise, the only reason to have your child – or yourself – tested is if they are showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. A full list of symptoms can be found on our website.

If after reviewing the symptoms on our website you’re still not sure if symptoms are because of COVID-19 or an underlying health reason such as allergies, you should speak to a healthcare provider such as a family doctor who can help you decide if and when a test should be done. However, a doctor’s note is not required before getting a test and please be aware that a doctor or healthcare provider cannot write you a note that says a child does not have COVID-19.

If someone from a school setting tests positive for COVID-19 and your child is not considered a close contact, you do not need to have your child tested or keep them home.  Continue to practice daily screening of children and/or youth and monitor for symptoms. OPH is currently working with the province to develop a screening tool to help parents screen their children. This tool is expected to be ready on our website before the start of the school year.

School staff can use the health screening questionnaire on our website.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate at home until:

  • the individual has completed 14 days of isolation from when their symptoms began OR when they received a positive test result (if they never had symptoms of COVID-19)
  • the individual has not had a fever for 72 hours, and
  • the individual’s symptoms have been improving for at least 72 hours

A doctor’s note is not required before returning to work or school after testing positive for COVID-19, nor is another COVID-19 test.

New COVID-19 webpage for back-to-school

I know this is a lot of information to take in and there are other questions people have about schools and COVID-19. So, I am happy to share that today OPH launched a new webpage that includes information and resources for parents. This webpage will be regularly updated and can be found at ottawapublichealth.ca/SchoolsCOVID19.

This webpage includes:

  • school reopening plans
  • health promotion and disease prevention measures
  • mental wellness supports
  • partner resources
  • and much more.

I encourage parents to check this page regularly for the latest information and guidance to help support your family with a safer back-to-school.

Collaborating across the health care system

The entire COVID-19 response is a collaborative effort across the health care system, including the testing strategy. The Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee, which includes OPH and hospitals, continues to work together to implement the Ontario Ministry of Health’s policies on testing priorities across Ottawa.

August 14, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

This week, Ottawa's four school boards announced back-to-school plans and parents are making decisions about what is best for their families when it comes to sending their children back to school. 

I know this hasn’t been easy for parents and guardians. 

When deciding whether to send your child back to school in September, each family should assess their own individual situation. Key factors in this decision include your child’s health condition, close contacts of your child, or other family members who may be at higher risk for serious outcomes with COVID-19 infection. Your family’s ability to find alternate childcare and time and resources to assist in providing home schooling will also play a major part in the decision. Perhaps your child has developmental needs that would require in-class learning with a trained professional. And of course, you want to think about your child’s mental health. When schools closed last March, parents reported concerns about their children missing social interactions. 

There is no one right answer for everyone; this decision is one that must be made by each individual family. 

For my family, we made the decision to send our children back to school after considering the variables involved: the level of the virus in the community, the health status of our boys and their close contacts and how available my partner and I would be if they were at home. Ultimately sending our children back to school is the best decision for us. 

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) will continue the conversations, monitor what’s happening in schools, revaluate and share new information as we become aware.  

We are in this with you, Ottawa. 

Keeping transmission low at the community level 

I’ve heard from some parents that they are feeling helpless about their decision; that they are feeling there is nothing they can do to keep their children protected from COVID19 transmission once they are back in school. 

I can tell you that this is not the case – there are concrete actions that parents, and all of us, can continue that will make a difference to the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. 

We must continue to do our part to keep transmission in the community low to help stop COVID-19 from entering schools in the first place. Data has shown children who test positive for COVID-19 are getting it from adult family members – mostly parents. 

Ottawa, you know what to do. We’ve flattened the curve before. Most recently, after a spike in mid-July where we were seeing cases double week by week, we are now seeing stable numbers once more thanks to your actions of wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, staying home when sick and exercising hand hygiene. You’ve learned to be social wise when seeing friends and loved ones.  

Additionally, I want to stress how important it is for teachers and other school staff to stay home when sick and for parents to keep their children home when they are sick.  

Symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 infection include, but are not limited to, feeling feverish, new or worsening cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, runny nose or nasal congestion. For a more fulsome list of symptoms, visit our website. In the past, we may have gone to work or sent a child to school with ‘just a cold’, but in living with COVID-19, we need to be more cautious. 

We will continue to work with the four school boards to support them in implementing provincial guidelines. Our COVID-19 school support team will provide support to superintendents, principals and school staff. Our nurses will provide each principal a checklist to ensure their plans and practices, are implemented in such a way to meet our expectations of infection prevention and control. As OPH liaisonsour nurses will be available to the principals and will be present regularly in the schools. 

Working with businesses and employers 

Further to the guidance provided on our website and in the City’s Business Reopening Toolkit we are looking at additional ways to help decrease community transmission. We are encouraging all local businesses to actively screen their employees, use customer and employee logs and promote mask use in areas not covered by the City‘s Temporary Mask By-law.   And, we are hosting a series of Business Reopening Workshops to provide sector-specific considerations for a safer reopening, covering off topics such as health and safety guidelines, planning for physical distancing, use of cloth masks and industry specific issues. 

We will continue to monitor workplace and business settings and provide further guidance and information as required. 

It’s OK to not be OK 

COVID-19 has impacted everyone differently, but we are consistently hearing about the negative mental health impacts from business owners, employers and employees, parents, children and youth and older adults.  

It is OK not be OK. Please continue to check OPH’s webpage for mental health resources for all ages. Let’s help each other through these hard times. 

Ottawa, you are doing a great job! With every precaution you take, we are one step closer to limiting the transmission of COVID-19.

August 11, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

This week, Ottawa’s four school boards are announcing their plans for a return to schools in September. I know many parents will be reading these plans carefully and considering what the best decision is for their family– in-person schooling or virtual education.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is working with local school boards to implement provincial guidance to support infection prevention and control in schools. There are multiple protective layers involved in keeping COVID-19 transmission in schools as low as possible, not limited exclusively to reducing class and cohort sizes, but also keeping cases low in the community overall, screening of students and staff to allow for people who are ill to stay home, using masks, distancing practices, adapting schedules and student flow, and maintaining vigilance with hand hygiene, as well as responding rapidly to exclude close contacts when someone is confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection.

I continue to have regular conversations with Ottawa’s four school boards to review specific questions, feedback and plans. We are planning for a variety of scenarios, including if an individual has symptoms, if an individual has a positive test for COVID-19 and if there is an outbreak where it appears the infection was transmitted in the school.  We will be actively practicing these scenarios in the coming weeks, to gain parental input and to ensure school staff are equipped with the information they need to follow through with communications and other aspects of the protocols.

Early detection and responding to outbreak clusters in schools will be vital to controlling the transmission of the virus in the community, just as adults’ physical distancing and mask use will be vital to keeping the virus out of schools. Surveillance systems will be in place to monitor for potential cases and potential outbreaks. Given the size of the student and school staff population in Ottawa, nearly 200,000, there will be people with symptoms similar to COVID-19 that will need assessment every day. Therefore, OPH is working with our healthcare partners to ensure maximized testing capacity is available to rule out or detect COVID-19 in this population on a daily basis.

While this upcoming Fall may feel uncertain, we will evaluate the situation, our responses and continue to seek feedback about keeping the return to school as safe as possible. This is important dialogue to have with everyone involved – school boards, school staff, families, parents, youth and children, health professionals and employers. 

OPH recognizes the need to balance the risk of COVID-19 transmission with mitigating other harms to the well-being of children, youth, families, school staff and the broader community. We are all impacted when people cannot rely on schools to support childhood development and economic activity as we usually have. Ottawa children and youth have not been physically present in a school setting since early March and we know that this has been stressful for many within our community.

According to a recent report on the Status of Mental Health in Ottawa During the COVID-19 Pandemic, parents of school-aged children are reporting poorer mental health and higher daily life stress than other sub-populations of Ottawa adults. Additionally, two thirds of parents with school-aged children at home are concerned about their children’s mental health and emotional well-being. After the school and daycare closures last March, parents were reporting they were concerned about their children missing social interactions. And, the closure of non-essential business, schools and daycares and stay-at-home measures in mid-March led to unemployment, a decrease in job seeking and income loss for some Ottawans. Many individuals and businesses applied for emergency response benefits, subsidies and payment deferrals.

To the parents of Ottawa: I hear you. The decision is difficult for many parents, given so many variables and unknowns about the future. When deciding how to send your child or youth back to school in September, each family should assess their own individual situation. Key factors in this decision include your child’s health condition, close contacts of your child, or other family members who may be at higher risk for serious outcomes with COVID-19 infection. Your family’s ability to find alternate childcare and resources to assist in providing home schooling will also play a major part in the decision. Perhaps your child has developmental needs that would require in-class learning with a trained professional. There is no right answer for everyone; this decision is one that must be made by each individual family.

Every one of us doing our part today will support a safer return to school in September.  And in the fall, employers will play a particularly important role in adjusting to workers’ return to full-time work, and extra precautions to prevent transmission in workplaces. We also call upon employers to be flexible to ensure people are able to stay home when unwell or to care for a child, youth or family member with symptoms of illness.

Please continue to check OPH’s webpage for mental health resources for all ages – it’s OK to not be OK.  We are also creating a dedicated “schools, colleges and universities” webpage to help answer questions about what to expect with the re-start of schools and post-secondary.

We are in this together. Together we will make it through this time of stress and uncertainty with a focus on keeping each other as safe as possible. 

August 07, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

Working with businesses

Ottawa businesses have made many sacrifices over the last several months from closing their doors entirely in the early days of the pandemic to slowly reopening and carefully following municipal and provincial guidance to reopen as safely as possible.

It may not be easy for businesses to follow the various changes to regulations for reopening.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) continues to work with all businesses to ensure they have the information they need to make the customer experience safer.

OPH is still seeing cases where employees are going to work while symptomatic.  For this reason, OPH strongly encourages all businesses to do active screening of employees to make sure no one is going to work when they are sick or feeling unwell. While many businesses have their own screening tools, OPH also has a health-screening questionnaire available on our Businesses and Workplaces website to assist businesses. Reminder: OPH does not recommend asymptomatic employees be tested before starting work since the results reflect just a snapshot in time and can be falsely reassuring. Please consult OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDCentre for the latest information on testing.

Starting today (August 7), Provincial regulations state that all food and drink establishments (e.g. restaurants, bars, food trucks, concession stands) must maintain customer logs for at least one month for every patron who enters an indoor or outdoor dining area in the establishment, other than patrons who temporarily enter the area to place, pick up or pay for a takeout order. OPH’s COVID-19 Guidelines for Reopening your Food Establishment provides a comprehensive, single source of guidance for business owners to support their reopening efforts including but not limited to recent changes to provincial regulations. For example, in addition to maintaining customer logs, OPH encourages all businesses to maintain secure employee logs since these would be a critical component to assisting OPH with case and contact management in the event of a someone being diagnosed with COVID-19 in these facilities. Contact tracing is an important step to stop the chain of transmission of COVID-19 and OPH continues to do contact tracing for all contacts of confirmed cases.

Lastly, while the City’s Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law states that people must wear a mask when in an enclosed public space, OPH encourages businesses to promote mask use in areas not covered by the by-law including non-public common areas such as break rooms, kitchens, changing areas, etc. to help further prevent COVID-19 transmission among staff.

For more information on guidance for businesses, visit our website.  

Businesses have worked extremely hard to reopen as safely as possible under unprecedented circumstances. I am asking residents and visitors to Ottawa to please respect local business policies and follow their guidance to protect yourselves and others. Keeping cases of COVID-19 low will allow kids to return to and stay in school, more people to return to work, residents to access important services, businesses to continue operating and our economy to return to some level of normalcy.  

NEW: Status of Employment and Income Pressures report

One of the tools OPH uses to shape our understanding of the impacts of COVID-19 on the community is a population-level survey of Ottawa residents. Information from a recent survey done in June with supporting data from Statistics Canada provided some insight on the impacts COVID-19 has had on employment and income.

Key findings include:

  • The closure of non-essential business, schools and daycares, and stay-at-home measures in mid-March have led to unemployment, a decrease in job seeking and income loss for some Ottawans. Many individuals and businesses applied for emergency response benefits, subsidies, and payment deferrals.
  • One in ten (11%) Ottawans are not currently working because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 28% of all Ottawans report a decrease in income since mid-March. It is too early to know how many Ottawans will lose their job permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent financial impact.
  • One-fifth (19%) of Ottawa residents said they had difficulty paying for either housing, food or utilities. This was more common among residents with a disability, those with lower household income and those who had a decrease in income since mid-March.
  • Groups that appear to be most impacted by income loss and the ability to pay for basic living costs (housing, food, utilities) include visible minorities and those with a disability.

View the full report here: Status of Employment and Income Pressures During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ottawa. Results from a population survey (June 3 to 8, 2020) with supporting data from Statistics Canada [PDF 935k]

Our health and well-being is strongly connected to our economic status, and both are influenced by factors such as gender, age, ethnicity and immigration status. OPH will continue to monitor this type of data so we can better understand both short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community.

Final Reminders:

As we head into another beautiful summer weekend, I want to remind residents to continue to be social wise when you socialize. Keep visits with those outside your social circle shorter and outdoors, always carry your mask with you even if you’re planning on being outdoors in the event you cannot physically distance, don’t share food or drinks with others and leave any situation in which you are uncomfortable. Visit ottawapublichealth.ca/SocialWise for more information.

Lastly, if haven’t already, please consider downloading the COVID Alert app so you can be notified if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. For more information on the app visit canada.ca.

August 05, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

It has been nearly three weeks since Ottawa entered Stage 3, more businesses have opened their doors and more people have gone back to work. We continue to monitor the Daily COVID-19 Dashboard indicators closely to evaluate where we are and how we are managing the virus in Ottawa.

Reopening schools 

Last week, the Province announced its plan to reopen schools in September. Ottawa Public Health continues to hear feedback from parents, school staff and teachers about the plan to get our children back to school as safely as possible here in Ottawa.

It is understandable that there are concerns with reopening schools and it is important for there to be a dialogue between everyone involved: school boards, school staff, families and children. We have to balance the risk of COVID-19 transmission with mitigating other harms to the wellbeing of children, youth, families and school staff. Ottawa children and youth have not been physically present in a school setting since early March and we know that this has been stressful for many within our community.

We are having ongoing conversations with our school board and Provincial partners to allow for as safe a return as possible. We are planning for a variety of scenarios, including if an individual has symptoms, if an individual has a positive test for COVID-19 and if there is an outbreak.

Enabling a return to school this September that is as safe as possible is crucial not only for childhood development and academic achievement, but for the health and well-being of the entire community. Everyone has a part to play. The fewer the number of people infected in the community, the fewer the opportunities for the virus to be introduced into schools.

Be “social wise” when you socialize

According to the latest data on our daily dashboard, the vast majority of people are wearing masks (97%) most of the time or always when indoors and are practicing physical distancing (91%). Thank you to those who continue to do their part.

Unfortunately, over the long weekend we observed instances of large crowds gathering in outdoor public spaces while not physically distancing or wearing masks. I understand it’s hard; this virus has been with us for the past five months and many of us just want to get out and enjoy socializing with friends.

I can’t stress enough that we must be wise about how we socialize. We’ve seen what happens in other areas that have let their guard down: cases have risen sharply; health care systems are overwhelmed and they are unable to meet testing and contact tracing demand.

We can still visit with our friends and loved ones, but we have to do so in a way to reduce the risk for transmission. Remember, people can be infectious without any symptoms.

To protect yourself and others, this means wearing a mask, even when outdoors, if you can’t physically distance.

It means limiting the number of people you have in your backyard or at the cottage. You need to plan for how you will maintain distancing among households and their social circles.

Maintaining physical distancing means avoiding handshakes and hugs.

Always have your mask and hand sanitizer with you – consider them as valuable as your wallet and cell phone.

If you’re uncomfortable in any scenario, leave. And if you’re sick, please stay home.

We can still be social – we just have to do things differently. Be COVIDwise and assess the risk of your activities.

Download the COVID Alert app

Last week, the federal government launched the COVID Alert app, a joint initiative with the Province of Ontario that will help alert Ontarians of potential exposure to COVID-19.

The app uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. Every day, it checks a list of random codes from people who tell the app they tested positive. If you've been near one of those codes in the past 14 days, you'll get a notification.

COVID Alert also provides access to the most up-to-date public health advice and resources to anyone who receives a message that they may have been exposed to the virus, including recommended actions, such as: get tested, self-isolate or monitor for symptoms.  

While voluntary, I encourage everyone to download the free app.

The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be in helping to stop the spread.

For more information on the app visit canada.ca.

July 31, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Reopening our schools

Yesterday the Province of Ontario announced the plan for reopening of schools for in-class instruction beginning in September.

I am happy to see that the Province has indicated that elementary schools and lower-risk secondary schools will be reopening with in-class instruction five days a week and part-time attendance with cohorts for the remainder of secondary schools.

Ottawa children and youth have not been physically present in a school setting since early March and we know that this has been stressful for many within our community. There is significant evidence demonstrating the harms of not having students present in a school setting at both the individual and community level.  We must balance the risk of COVID-19 transmission with other observed impacts on the health of children, youth, families and school staff.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is committed to continuing its work with local school boards and partners to make the return to school as safe as possible, balancing the risk of COVID transmission with mitigating other harms to the wellbeing of children, youth, families and school staff. Keeping COVID transmission in the community low, through the actions of all of us, will be key to preventing introduction of the virus into schools.  And, early detection and responding to outbreak clusters in schools will be vital to controlling the transmission of the virus in the community. OPH will follow provincial standards and provide infection prevention and control advice to schools for both in-class and transportation scenarios.

In collaboration with stakeholders, we will develop and promote mental health resources and tools for schools to use to increase resiliency, to promote positive coping skills, to reduce stress and anxieties, and to increase connectedness. OPH will continue its work with the network of child and youth mental health community service providers in Ottawa, including the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and other partners to ensure that services, materials and resources provided to the schools are evidence-based and robust. In the meantime, please visit ottawapublichealth.ca/COVIDMentalHealth for more information and resources on mental health and COVID-19.

I know the plan to return to school raises mixed concerns for families and that there will continue to be many questions in the coming weeks as we approach the beginning of the school year. It’s also not easy for school staff – they are being met with unprecedented challenges so we need to continue to support teachers and staff. We will be continuing to support school boards in communicating with families and school staff about the plans.

Facilitation of a safer return to school by September 2020 is crucial not only for development and academic achievement, but for the health and well-being of the entire community.  We are all in this together.

Be social wise when you socialize

As we head into the long weekend, I hope you will be able to safely participate in some of the activities that you enjoy with those inside your social circle of the same 10 (or less) people.

I want to remind people that private gatherings (e.g. parties, get togethers) are considered a high-risk activity when doing so with those outside your social circle. If you are going to be participating in such an activity this weekend with people outside your social circle, please assess your risk and ask yourself how you can make the activity safer. This means keeping visits shorter and outdoors, wearing a mask inside and outside if you can’t physically distance, washing your hands often and avoiding touching your face. Make it a habit to carry hand sanitizer in your pocket or your purse. Avoid sharing food or drinks – bring your own.  Avoid handshakes and embracing others. If you’re uncomfortable, leave. And if you’re sick, please stay home.

This continues to be a community effort. We know sustaining behaviour change isn’t easy and I want to thank everyone for their individual efforts in adapting to this new normal. I know we have what it takes to flatten the curve again.

Have a safe and enjoyable long weekend.

 July 30, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) continues to see a higher number of positive COVID-19 cases in Ottawa than we have been seeing in recent months. While we had anticipated an increase in cases as result of reopening businesses and other sectors of the economy, the numbers are concerning and don’t appear to be linked to the implementation of Stage 2 and Stage 3. Rather, what we are seeing is primarily linked to social behaviours and indoor gatherings. All age groups under age 80 have had at least a five-fold increase in the COVID-19 infection rate since the first week of July. Sadly, this week, the first death we have seen in a month was a person in their 40s.

We were able as a city to move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 because of the safe practices and good choices we had been making in recent months. Ottawa residents know what to do to keep transmission of the virus as low as possible as we resume our activities in the community and get back to work and school. We need to find a balance between acceptable COVID infection rates and resuming functions which are so important to our well-being and our health such as socializing and visiting loved ones, accessing services and simply moving about in our communities.

Today, I’m asking everyone to get back to the basics: practice physical distancing. please stay home when you’re sick, always wear a mask while inside public spaces and outdoors when physical distancing is difficult and don't forget to wash your hands and avoid touching your face. We have flattened the curve before, and I know that Ottawa has what it takes to do it again.

It is important to know that the number of cases that we are reporting today are a result of actions taken and decisions made 2+ weeks ago. Today, I’m asking you to look ahead two weeks from now and help us determine the number of cases we will be reporting – this is a time where we want the score to be zero! Let’s change the trajectory, together.

Reopening childcare services

Recently, we have seen outbreaks in four childcare centres in Ottawa. When OPH is notified about a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a childcare centre, OPH connects with the childcare centre and cases and high- and low-risk close contacts, to provide guidance and information, including daily monitoring. All high-risk close contacts are required self-isolate and to get tested at least 5 days after the initial contact with the case. A review of Infection Prevention and Control measures is completed to assist the case and contact tracing investigation. All the while, OPH continues to promote practices to prevent entry of COVID-19 into childcare settings.

When we each do our part to limit COVID-19 transmission, we help keep COVID-19 out of daycares. The more transmission there is in the community at large, the more risk there is for COVID-19 to be introduced. We need daycares to reopen as safely as possible to support children’s health and development and to allow parents to get back to work.

Socializing more safely

COVID-19 is still in our community and this recent uptick in cases is a clear reminder of what can happen when we let our guard down, especially when visiting with friends and family members. Being with loved ones feels good and provides comfort, making it easier to let our guard down. Let’s protect those who are closest to us the same way that we would protect a stranger in the grocery store – by maintaining a two metre distance and by wearing a mask when indoors.

If you have a cold, the flu, COVID-19 or some other infectious illness, it is important to stay home and not socialize or work until you are symptom-free to reduce transmission. It is recommended that you get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Make sure your social circle consists of the same 10 people; less is better. If you plan to visit with people who are not in your direct social circle of 10, do the visiting with physical distancing and preferably outdoors.

A negative COVID-19 test result is not a guarantee that you are not infected, as it takes about five days after exposure for a COVID-19 test to detect the virus. And, you may also be exposed to the virus after the test has been taken. Therefore, you should always remember to be COVIDwise, be diligent about the usual precautions (wearing masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene) even after a test. Getting tested for COVID-19 is not a free pass to let your guard down and forget these important measures to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Stage 3 business reopening

More businesses have opened their doors and are making significant efforts to do so safely. They need your help. Please adhere to public health guidance when visiting your local businesses. Furthermore, since it is difficult to maintain distancing while seated at the same table in a restaurant or bar, you should only sit with members of your household or exclusive social circle.

OPH is working closely with several business improvement areas, community partners and City of Ottawa partners including By-law and Regulatory Services and Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development to promote practices that reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. OPH is considering all possible measures to support wise choices and practices during the Stage 3 reopening of restaurants and bars in the city.

I am writing further instructions to businesses this week to require them to prevent people from coming to work sick, minimize opportunities for transmission, including reducing close contact with others, and record keeping to support the efforts of contact tracing, among other practices.

Information for businesses will continue to be updated on our website.

Keeping transmission of the COVID-19 virus low in our city will allow kids to return and stay in school, more people to return to work, residents to access important services, businesses to continue operating and our economy to return to some level of normalcy.

Every single one of us has the capacity to make a difference. The future is in our hands and we can do this together.

Thank you. Merci.

July 24 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

The increase in reported cases of COVID-19 in recent days is a stark reminder of the potential for this virus to spread if it is given the chance to do so. With the virus present in our community and the vast majority of us being susceptible to infection, we all need to continue to be COVIDWise to prevent transmission.

Many cases are linked to multiple large indoor social gatherings involving a range of age groups. Indoor gatherings are a high-risk activity that can lead to ‘super-spreader events’ in which multiple people can become infected who can then expose others in their households, social contacts and places of employment. Transmission is not limited to these large gatherings but can occur when distancing and mask use have not been maintained. In addition, people with symptoms have gone to social gatherings or work increasing the risk of transmission.  

Please continue to be COVIDWise and assess the risk of the activities in which you engage. Practice physical distancing, wear a mask when you are not able to distance or when in an indoor public space, isolate when sick and exercise proper hand hygiene.

Social circles vs gatherings

The Province has set limits at 50 people for indoor gatherings and 100 people for outdoor gatherings. These are with physical distancing (and mask use for indoor gatherings) for people outside your household and social circle.

There are a number of strategies that can be used to reduce the risk of transmission for social gatherings: stay outdoors, remind people not to come if feeling sick or unwell, limit the number of people and plan seating to ensure physical distancing between households/social circles, sanitize hands frequently and limit the duration of gatherings. 

A social circle extends your household to include other family and/or close friends of no more than 10 people (less is better) with mutual agreement that they will exclusively interact with each other without physical distancing. Each person can only be in one social circle. 

If you establish your own social circle and just one person in your circle establishes another social circle, this opens transmission to up to 20 people. Imagine if everyone from your social circle did this. Knowing where the virus is coming from and who may have been exposed is another reason why contained circles are important.

We have all made sacrifices, but we must continue to assess the risk of every activity in which we engage especially if it involves gathering with those outside your social circle. Please continue to distance when seeing those from outside of your circle and use a mask when you can’t to add an extra layer of protection.

Be “social wise” when you socialize

Last weekend saw crowded streets in the ByWard Market. As bars and restaurants reopen, we need to be cautious of congestion that can lead to the transmission of COVID-19 by not distancing and not using masks outside in crowded areas. While being outdoors generally lowers risk of COVID-19 transmission, you still need to maintain that physical space between others.

Socializing is important for our mental health. So, it means being “social wise” when you socialize to reduce the risk of such activities. This means keeping visits with friends shorter, reducing the number of participants, meeting outdoors and maintaining a two-metre distance.If you are going out in public, please have a mask on you at all times if you find you are not able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from others. The City’s Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law also indicates masks are mandatory in enclosed public settings like restaurants, bars and movie theatres.

For more information on masks, visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks.

Workplace screening

OPH continues to provide guidance to businesses and workplaces on how to reopen and provide service as safely as possible.

OPH encourages daily self-screening for symptoms of COVID-19 among employees before they arrive at work to ensure they stay home if they are sick. Businesses have been provided resources including an employee screening questionnaire, posters and online tools to assist in the screening process.

More workplace guidance and resources are available on our website at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/WorkplaceCOVID19

OPH is thankful to the business community for continued innovation, sacrifice and commitment over the past several months in our collective efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our city. Ottawa is lucky to have such an engaged and responsible business community. These actions have helped support the health of our city during this difficult time. Continued efforts to be COVIDWise and COVID Kind are incredibly important moving forward. 

Continuing the forward momentum

Through our case management and data collection efforts, we can identify outbreaks and where they come from and are reaching 100 per cent of cases and 93 per cent of close contacts within 24 hours. If Ottawa enters a situation where we are seeing rapid community transmission, further increases in hospitalizations and outbreaks and overwhelming demand on testing and contact tracing capacity, we are at risk of undoing the hard work that has gotten us to Stage 3.

Ottawa, now is the time to act.

Being COVIDWise is the hammer in our toolbelt. Maintain a distance of two metres, wear a mask, stay home when sick and practice proper hand hygiene. Assess your own risk when choosing activities and ask yourself how you can make it safer. We did this successfully to get to Stage 3; we need to apply these techniques to the same degree moving forward.

We anticipated some bumps along the way. It has been a long journey and now is not the time to let up. I know that we can continue to be cautious and COVIDWise to protect ourselves and others. Our community is a strong one and we will continue to move forward during these uncertain times. Thank you for the work you have done so far. Let’s continue to move through this together.

July 21 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

Over the last few days, we have seen an increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19. 

Today we are reporting 43 new cases.

Many of these new cases are linked to higher-risk activities: indoor gatherings where people are not practicing physical distancing, gatherings with people outside their social circle or in some cases, people going to work when they have symptoms. 

While it’s too soon to know for sure if this trend will continue, the data over the past few days is concerning. 

All cases are linked to activities that occurred during Stage 2, meaning we are not yet seeing the impact of Stage 3 reopenings on new cases

In the coming days, we can expect to see more cases reported because those infections already occurred some days ago. What we can do going forward is to reduce the opportunities for new infections and further spread. 

I know it’s been hard to change our behaviour and learn new ways of doing things. Ottawa residents have so far, for the most part, been incredibly adaptive and resilient. Everyone has made sacrifices, and it can feel overwhelming to hear that this virus is going to be with us for some time.  

Our actions need to be based on what we know about this virus. People, and that means anyone, can be infectious without any symptoms. When people have symptoms, they can be mild and indistinguishable from a cold. We need to keep doing the things we’ve been doing that have been successful to protect ourselves and to protect othersphysical distancing, wearing a mask, staying home when sick and washing our hands.  

It’s crucial that we navigate living with COVID-19 with caution. And we do that by assessing the risk of the activities in which we engage, by asking what we can do to make these activities safer and by being COVIDWise. 

It doesn’t mean we don’t see our friends and loved ones. Socializing is important for our mental health. So, it means being “social wise” when you socialize to reduce the risk of such activities. This means keeping visits with friends shorter, reducing the number of participants, meeting outdoors and maintaining a two-metre distance 

It also means always having a mask with you in case you need to go inside a business or are outdoors and can’t maintain a physical distance from others. 

It means using platforms such as Zoom to meet with others virtually instead of in person as we are doing with our media availability today. 

In addition, wneed to remember it’s not just about us: it’s about protecting our loved ones and those in the community who are more vulnerable. 

Ottawa Public Health will continue to monitor the situation closely. We are targeting health promotion and preventative messaging to people in their teens and 20s to emphasize socializing more wisely. We are adding to our team of case managers as case numbers and outbreaks increase. We are exploring options to address gatherings around bars with By-Law and Regulatory Services. And we are working with our health care partners to address wait times for testing at our assessment centres. 

Lastly, I want to remind everyone that there are mental health resources available to anyone who needs to talk to someone. It’s OK to not be OK. If you are in crisis, please contact the Mental Health Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) at 613-722-6914. 

For a full list of resources, pleases visit our website at Ottawa Public Health dot ca forward slash COVID mental health. 

Thank you. 

July 20 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

This past weekend we saw the largest jump in positive cases of COVID-19 since May 2020. Additionally, we have seen an increase in positive cases in younger people with almost half among those in the 20-29-year age group.. Unfortunately, we are also seeing an increase in hospitalizations. 

Today alone, Ottawa Public Health is reporting 20 new cases, the highest one-day jump since May. Of those 20 cases, a small number are linked to community testing while the rest are due to activities people have engaged in during Stage 2.

It has been more than a month since we entered Stage 2 so it is not surprising that we are seeing an increase of cases. What is striking about this data is that these cases are not linked to reopenings, but rather higher risk activities: indoor gatherings where people are not practicing physical distancing, gatherings with people outside their social circle or in some cases people going to work when they have symptoms.These are the behaviours we need to address as we transition into Stage 3 to avoid overwhelming our health care system and taking a step backwards, thereby undoing so much of the hard work that has gotten us this far. 

We have not entered Stage 3 because the virus is gone. We entered Stage 3 because we were able to take the necessary precautions that have allowed us to keep COVID-19 at a manageable level. It is imperative that we continue to practice public health measures and be COVIDWise as we learn to live with COVID-19. Additionally, assess your own risk when choosing which activities to engage in and ask yourself how you can make it safer. 

COVID-19 is present in every community in Ottawa, people of all ages are susceptible, and anyone who is infected can spread the virus to others.

Safer ways to socialize, to get together with friends and family 

It’s no secret that changing the way we socialize has been challenging, and Ottawa residents have been incredibly resilient and have done a great job at adapting. As we enter Stage 3, our public health advice has not changed: people are still being asked to limit their contacts to their social circle of the same 10 people (less is better). It is strongly encouraged to limit your gatherings to the outdoors. Wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces is now mandatory. Stay home when you’re sick, seek to maintain a physical distance of two metres at all times from those outside your social circle and wash your hands regularly.

It doesn’t mean we must stop seeing our friends and loved ones – those things are important for our mental health - but when we do see them, we must do so with caution, assess the risks and be COVIDWise.

It’s too early to see any indications of how we are doing as we enter Stage 3, but what we do know is that our collective actions today will directly impact our future.

Any Ottawa resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can go for testing at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre or COVID-19 Care Clinics and should not be turned away, unless volumes are significant.

July 17 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Today as we enter Stage 3 of the province’s recovery plan, I am reflecting on how incredibly significant the changes in the behaviour of residents of Ottawa have been. Your actions have added up to protection against COVID-19 at the population level. By following public health measures like physical distancing, wearing a mask, staying home when you are sick and washing your hands, more people are able to get back to work and access more services.

Because the virus is still in our community, we need to continue to take care. With new provincial guidance allowing up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors and more businesses reopening, there are going to be increased opportunities to interact with others and therefore more cases of COVID-19 can be expected.  Breaking these chains of transmission to keep the level of virus in the community manageable is our collective goal as we learn to live with COVID-19 into the future.

No activity can be made completely safe, so I recommend everyone assess their own risk level before engaging in certain activities. Are you, or are you living with, someone who is at higher risk of complications from COVID-19? Is there something you can do, like wear a mask, to make the activity safer? Do the risks outweigh the necessity of the activity? Choose lower-risk activities that are outdoors, involve physical distancing from others and with smaller groups.

Social circles vs gatherings

Starting today, gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors are allowed in Ontario. However, provincial requirements are to maintain social circles at no more than 10 people. To clarify, social circles are the members of our household plus others (up to 10) where there is close contact, whereas physical distancing is still required for all other gatherings. The rationale is to keep the opportunity for COVID-19 transmission low.

Mandatory masks

To help limit the spread of COVID-19 and prepare for Stage 3 of the provincial reopening plan, City Council approved a temporary by-law to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces. This includes restaurants, stores, places of worship, sports facilities, community venues, hotel lobbies and the public areas of City and health facilities. Masks continue to be required on transit and transit property.

Evidence continues to build that masks are an additional layer of protection when there is community transmission of the virus, including from asymptomatic people.

There are some people who are unable to wear a mask, such as children under two years of age, individuals with breathing or cognitive difficulties and anyone who is unable to remove a mask without help. Proof of exemption is not required and Ottawa Public Health will continue to communicate about this. I ask you to continue to be understanding and compassionate. For those who can wear masks: please do so to help protect those who can’t.

Residents are encouraged to continue practicing physical distancing, wash their hands frequently and stay home when sick.

Resources for businesses

As businesses reopen, we encourage them to seek information from the Business Reopening Toolkit for guidelines related to masks and other ways to avoid outbreaks in workplace. Ottawa Public Health is not approving specific business plans for reopening but is providing proactive advice and addressing questions from businesses as needed. For businesses not yet permitted to open, they can connect with the Provincial government to discuss a reopening plan.

For more information on preventing COVID-19 in the workplace, please visit our website.

Learning to live with COVID-19

I realize that for many it may be discouraging to hear that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. The idea of living with COVID-19 for several months, even years, can sound overwhelming. It is important to shift to the long-term view and to be realistic. Until there is a vaccine available, we must learn to do things differently to continue to protect each other.

Ottawa, you may not realize it, but you are incredibly resilient. Look at how much we have adapted to and accomplished in the last few months! You have learned new ways of living, some of which may seem normal now. I have every confidence that we will get through this new phase.

This is in our hands. Please continue to be COVIDWise as we learn to live with COVID-19. It may be a long road, there may be some bumps, but we will continue as the strong community that we have become. 

We’re in this for the long haul, Ottawa, but we’re in this together.

July 10 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

I want to start by thanking businesses in Ottawa and the community for your constant ability to adapt and support each other as information regarding COVID-19 continues to evolveThe numbers show that we have been successful so far in keeping this virus pinned down. This is not a time to back down or lower our guard as this virus is relentless and still causing infections, particularly when people who are ill do not stay home. 

Mandatory masks  

As we have learned, not everyone feels sick when they are infected and so masks are used to help stop transmission from asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic people. 

This week, I noticed Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) mandatory mask signage on storefronts across Ottawa. Businesses have been quick to respond to this new directive and I am seeing an increase in the number of residents wearing masks while in enclosed public spacesThis is encouraging and I thank everyone for doing their part to ensure that COVID-19 remains low in our community. 

Mask use is an important measure to help employees feel more protected in the workplace, and it supports customers in feeling safe enough to go out to stores and support the local economy. Getting our local economy back on track is important for the health of our residents. People need to return to their jobs to be able to support themselves and their family. As we start getting used to entering establishments with masks, businesses will appreciate us treating their employees with civility and respect. This is a time where many are anxious and getting used to change. Please do not direct your frustrations toward businesses or employees.   

To support businesses with the implementation of a mandatory mask use policy, we have added FAQs to our website along with signage, and a sample policy for businesses to use.  

Residents can learn more about how to properly wear a mask, and where to purchase a mask at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/masks. 

Schools 

Last night I had the privilege of participating in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) consultation with parents regarding the reopening of schools in the fall, where I noted my recommendation to balance the risk of COVID-19 transmission with other observed impacts on the health of children, youth and familiesSpecifically, given the situation in Ottawa now, and if the trends continue, I recommend starting with 5 days of school in-person and working to make this as safe as possible through reasonable and feasible infection prevention and control measures, including rapid responses to stop transmission when infections occur.  

Existing scientific research regarding children and COVID-19 indicates that children tend to have mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic infections and that they may play less of a role in population-wide transmission than adults, although the evidence is inconclusive. 

Ottawa children and youth have not been physically present in a school setting since early March and we know that this has been a major cause of stress for families. OPH has been assessing many factors including the impact of the school closures on children, youth and parents, on those working from home, on the return to the workforce of essential workers, including healthcare workers, on mental health, on domestic violence, on the risk of outbreaks and more. Having received significant feedback from Ottawa families regarding the Province’s School Safety Plan for the 2020-21 school year, we are sharing these concerns in our conversations with partners and the province.  

Taking these considerations in mind, there is mounting evidence related to the harms of children not being in school, at both the individual and community level. The challenge our community is facing is to balance the risk of transmission of the virus with the risks of keeping children home from school. 

Ongoing evaluation and input from all stakeholders and learning from other jurisdictions that have proceeded with school reopening ahead of us will be important as children return to school, ideally for 5 days a week, with a choice for parents who feel the risk for their family is too high for in-person school, and with extra supports in place.  

The return to school is a key part of learning to live with COVID-19. Keeping the virus level low in the community by being COVIDWise supports a safer return. 

Youth and Young Adult COVID-19 focus groups  

Recently, OPH commissioned a focus group project with an external consultant to ensure that we were hearing a youth perspective about COVID-19 

We have learned that youth understand physical distancing and the importance of public health measures, however they have voiced that this pandemic is challenging on their mental health. We are seeing that they listen to friends and family, to sports figures and online personalities. As a community, we can continue to support and encourage them and show them that their efforts are working. We can lead by example and be open to conversation about their experience. 

OPH is currently working on a communications approach, primarily using Instagram, to continue to share information and engage with youth and young adults in preferred platform.  

Ticks and mosquitoes 

Much of our recent focus has been on COVID-19 and our efforts to ‘flatten the curve’. However, as the season progresses, we know there are other infections that pose risks to our health – those spread by black-legged ticks and mosquitos. Just as people in Ottawa are taking measures to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection, residents’ efforts to make tick-checks and avoiding mosquito bites part of our daily routines will help prevent unwanted infections. 

For more information on West Nile virus and Lyme disease, residents are encouraged to visit our website. 

In closing, I would like to invite everyone to take part in our new survey. We continue to value community perspectives and need your input to inform our response. We want to know your priorities and how we can help local businesses as we ease up on restrictionsControlling COVID19 is a community effort and we need to hear your voice. 

The new survey and forum questions are available on Engage Ottawa Engage.Ottawa.ca/COVID19. This survey will close on July 23rd. 

Remember – wearing a mask is an added layer of protection to those around you and is not a substitute for other measures like needing to isolate yourself when sick, staying two metres apart from others and exercising proper hand hygiene. We must continue to be compassionate, as not everyone is able to wear a mask. It is important to be COVIDwise and COVID kind. Thank you for doing your part to help each other. 

You, Ottawa, are saving lives. 

July 6 - Joint Statement – Medical Officers of Health from Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; Renfrew County and District Health and Ottawa Public Health
Today Medical Officers of Health from Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; Renfrew County and District Health and Ottawa Public Health announced a regional approach to the use of masks in their respective jurisdictions.
July 3 - Joint Statement – Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Keith Egli (Chair of the Ottawa Board of Health)
Over the course of Ottawa’s response to COVID-19, Dr. Vera Etches and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) have encouraged the use of cloth masks when unable to maintain a two-metre physical distance. It is not always possible to know going into an indoor public space whether or not maintaining a two-metre physical distance can occur. It is often dependent upon the nature of the space and the number and actions of others. Additionally, increasing scientific evidence indicates that the use of masks is an important measure to help control the spread of COVID-19.

This is why the City of Ottawa will join other municipalities across the Province of Ontario and will mandate the use of cloth masks in many indoor public spaces.

The City of Ottawa has engaged in conversations with City partners, neighbouring health units and members of the business community to explore all possibilities for the establishment of a City of Ottawa By-law requiring residents to wear a cloth mask. Following these conversations, the City of Ottawa is confident in moving forward with the decision to mandate cloth mask use in indoor public spaces.

In speaking with the members of our business community, we’ve heard from business owners that they are in favour of mandating the wearing of cloth masks in indoor public spaces. This by-law would ensure that all businesses are on a level playing field. The decrease in transmission will benefit our local economy by allowing increased use of our excellent local establishments and greater customer comfort. We believe that one of the many ways to support local small businesses is to do whatever we can, such as wearing a cloth mask, to help them stay open.

The motion to institute a by-law ensuring that residents of the City of Ottawa wear a cloth mask that covers their nose, mouth and chin, without any gaping in certain circumstances will be brought up at Council on July 15th. The Motion will be moved by Councillor Egli and seconded by Mayor Watson.

Until such by-law is in effect in Ottawa, the four health units in the Champlain region are looking at a regional approach to mandate masks in their respective jurisdictions. More information about this regional approach will be provided at a joint media availability on Monday, July 6 to be held with Medical Officer’s of Health from four surrounding public health units.

Ottawa Public Health’s most recent public engagement survey found that the vast majority of residents from Ottawa are willing to have cloth masks use made mandatory in stores in order for them to feel comfortable shopping. Socializing and normalizing cloth masks in indoor public places will help protect our community. According to phase 1 of OPH’s engagement survey, 90 per cent of respondents said that they would willingly wear a cloth mask in order to be allowed access to services. In our phase 2 survey, so far 73 per cent of respondents say they already wear a cloth mask when visiting an indoor public space.

In addition, we strongly believe that the benefits of wide-spread cloth mask use will set us up for a better transition into Stage 3. The Province of Ontario states that a transition to Stage 3 will only be allowed if it can be done as safely as possible. The wide-spread use of cloth masks will assist with better protecting Ottawa residents from COVID-19 transmission during the transition to Stage 3.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and has impacted the way we live, work and play. Information about the virus continues to evolve but what we know today is that wearing cloth masks is a key component to protecting our community from COVID-19.

Community spirit is strong in Ottawa. It is important to state that there may be many in our community who won’t be able to wear a cloth mask due to a variety of reasons such as pre-existing medical conditions, being a child under the age of two, being someone who requires accommodation in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code or someone who is hearing impaired or who is communicating with a person who is hearing impaired. Please be prepared to see some individuals in public without cloth masks and we ask that you please be respectful.

We understand that this a change for many. Be patient. Be kind with yourself and others. Wearing a cloth mask in indoor public spaces is new to many of us and will be an adjustment. We are all in this together. Let’s continue to protect the people who live in our city because wearing a cloth mask is a small sacrifice if it means saving lives and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa. My cloth mask protects you, and your cloth masks protects me.

June 29 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

This year, Canada Day is going to look and feel a little different. With no signature events downtown or large community gatherings, you may find yourself finding new ways to celebrate Canada Day.

The most Canadian thing we can do is continue to care and protect others by being COVIDWise during Canada Day celebrations. 

However you choose to celebrate Canada Day this year, I encourage everyone to continue to practice physical distancing, wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible, limit your contacts, stay home if you’re sick and exercise good hand washing hygiene.

While provincial emergency orders allow for gatherings of up to 10 people, the fewer close contacts you have the better. 

While planning your Canada Day activities, keep in mind these considerations to celebrate in a safer way:

  • Try to keep celebrations outdoors in places where physical distancing can be easily followed
  • Avoid potentially crowded areas like parks or beaches
  • Celebrate with those inside your social circle; keep your social circle separate from other social circles
  • Consider the level of risk of your activities for yourself and those in your social circle and household. Certain groups are at a higher risk (older adults, people with weakened immune systems or chronic health conditions) and should take extra precautions.

Let’s celebrate our country and our city by protecting the people who live here.  

Preventing/preparing for a second wave

As we continue to move through Stage 2 of reopening, we are continuing the hard work that has allowed us to get here. We are seeing second waves emerge in other parts of the world and, while we are fortunately in a much better position here in Ottawa at this point, we are also at risk of a second wave. We can watch other countries and communities to learn about what works to control COVID19 and adapt approaches to what is appropriate for our city.

Currently case numbers are steady, outbreaks are decreasing and we are maximizing testing and contact tracing capacity. This is good news, but the positive case numbers you see updated on our website every day are still just a fraction of the infections truly present in the community.

The risk of an increase in COVID19 cases and outbreaks is real. Modelling data shows that a decline of just twenty per cent in public control measures could lead to a second wave. Our actions influence whether a second wave occurs and its severity. Ottawa residents have already shown that they are capable of doing what needs to be done to keep the virus at a manageable level.

Masks

Our community spirit is strong. According to phase 1 of our engagement survey, the majority of residents (90 per cent) agreed or strongly agreed that they would be willing to wear non-medical or cloth masks in order to be allowed to access services. Three quarters (74 per cent) agreed or strongly agreed that they would be willing to wear a non-medical or cloth mask in the workplace. And preliminary data from phase 2 of our engagement survey which started last Thursday so far indicates that 71 per cent of residents wore a mask in indoor public spaces either “most of the time” or “always” in the last seven days.  This percentage has been growing and we continue to observe room for improvement in mask wearing to protect each other.

While the data shows that many people are already doing the right thing by wearing a mask, we are seriously exploring our options for making masks mandatory in commercial settings in Ottawa. I am having conversations with the Mayor, our City partners and neighbouring health units to ensure we are well coordinated in our actions and will provide more information before the end of the week.

It may be uncomfortable to wear a mask especially with the warmer weather, however wearing a mask will help protect others. If you are able, please wear a mask when going somewhere you cannot guarantee the ability to physically distance. If you’re not sure if where you’re going may require a mask, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of keeping one on your person at all times. My mask protects you and your mask protects me.

Wearing a mask is a small sacrifice if it means saving lives.

Beaches

It is exciting news that City beaches are now open. This is a great way to cool off and enjoy time with those in your household. Our advice is to avoid larger crowds where you are unable to physically distance to protect yourselves and those around you.

If you do plan on spending some time at the beach this summer, be sure to remember the COVIDWise basics. Remain cautious of communal areas such as washrooms and high-touch surfaces.

More information on water safety can be found on the Ottawa Public Health website.

This summer will be different from those past. Still, I hope that you can use this time to create many wonderful memories of a summer of overcoming the challenges of COVID19.

Being COVIDWise is key to moving into Stage 3 and beyond.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Canada Day.

June 24 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

Based on the most recent modelling update, Ottawa is currently at 68 per cent physical distancing effectiveness. Physical distancing effectiveness describes how fast COVID-19 spreads in Ottawa compared to if there was no physical distancing. In other words, the higher the percentage, the better. If there is perfect or 100 per cent physical distancing effectiveness, there would be no COVID-19 spread.   

At the beginning of COVID-19 in Ottawa, new cases and hospitalizations doubled every three to four days. As people in Ottawa began to physically distance, the spread of COVID-19 slowed.  Currently, hospital admissions are slower than the initial three to four days doubling time, but we have not yet eliminated all COVID-19 growth.​

Everyone's actions have contributed to flattening the curve and have allowed us to move into Stage 2 of reopening. We must stay the course. Be COVIDWiseWear a mask, Isolate when sick (and seek testing if you have symptoms), Stay two metres apart from others and Exercise proper hand hygiene. It is up to you to make informed decisions and lessen your risk of infection and the risk to people close to you.  Being COVIDWise saves lives.

Early socio-demographic data

On May 8, OPH started collecting socio-demographic data from people diagnosed with COVID-19. A preliminary look at data collected so far tells us that there may be an over-representation of people who are racialized and immigrants compared with Census 2016 data.  

  • 66% identified as from a racialized community compared to 26% of Ottawa residents in Census 2016 data
  • 54% are immigrants to Canada while only 24% of Ottawa residents are immigrants in Census 2016 data
  • Areas in Ottawa with the most diverse communities have rates of COVID-19 almost twice that of areas with the least diversity

This preliminary data is consistent with what is being seen elsewhere. We will be working with community partners such as the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership to understand these numbers. We need to better understand how people’s experiences and life situations are creating this unfair vulnerability to COVID-19 in order to address these differences and barriers.

We are expanding our work to collect socio-demographic information from people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to May 8 which will allow us to complete fulsome analysis of the data.

Mental health

The impacts of COVID-19 extend beyond the infection itself. OPH has been surveying Ottawa residents to understand how people are managing the health and social impacts of COVID-19.

In June, we asked about mental health and emotional well-being including sense of community belonging and loneliness. Some of the findings include:

  • 38% reported their overall mental health and emotional well-being as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ in the last two weeks compared to 9% in 2017 (Canadian Community Health Survey);
  • 52% reported a weak sense of belonging to their local community compared to 30% in 2017;
  • Nearly 60% of residents reported feeling some sense of loneliness over the last two weeks; and,
  • 1 in 3 reported at least one time in the past two weeks wanting to talk to someone about something on their mind but did not know where to turn.

This data will continue to help inform OPH and our partners on how to best support the mental health and wellness in our community. A report with these findings will be available soon.

Visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 page and our Resources for First Nations, Inuit and Metis Community Members page for currently available mental health resources.   

We would like to thank EKOS Research for their collaboration on the survey.

Thanks to the team

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response, hundreds of public health and City staff have been working hard to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa. In all my years in public health, I have never seen so many people come together and work with such passion and purpose to protect our community. Their continuous commitment and hard work day and night, seven days a week makes me proud to be part of this organization. Thank you to all of OPH and the City for the collective approach.

We have worked collaboratively with our partners to keep our community safe and to protect those at higher risk. The combined efforts of public health, local partners and the community are making a difference. Thousands of lives have been saved.

Find out more on OPH’s response by the numbers in the Be COVIDWise infographic.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. This day allows us to celebrate the vital role that the Francophone community has played within Canada since its foundation. We are proudly bilingual and we hope you enjoy yourselves safely today.

June 22 – Special statement from Dr. Sarah Funnell, Associate Medical Officer of Health

Kwey, Aniin, Shé:kon, Ainngai, Taanshi,

This past weekend we celebrated both National Indigenous Peoples Day and summer solstice, a time of celebration and new beginnings. Many Ottawans spent the weekend outdoors and enjoyed the beauty of the traditional unceded Algonquin territory.

June is also Indigenous History Month, a time to learn about and acknowledge the rich diversity of cultures and traditions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is committed to reconciliation. We work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples and communities to advance Indigenous health equity and address anti-Indigenous racism. Currently we are working with partners to better understand how COVID-19 is affecting Indigenous communities, including the health and social effects of closures and physical distancing on First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

As part of our pandemic response, OPH has launched a new webpage that highlights COVID-19 resources for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis community members. Resources include information developed by Ottawa Public Health and local, provincial and national Indigenous organizations. Several of the resources are available in a number of Indigenous languages that reflect the diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Ottawa.

Please take the opportunity to learn about First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, anti-Indigenous racism, and to reflect on a personal commitment to address past and current injustices.

Meegwetch, Nia:wen, Qujannamiik, Marsee.

Updated guidance for businesses and places of worship

Just over a week has passed since many businesses and childcare services started to reopen under provincial guidance. OPH continues to monitor and assess the situation as it evolves and is working closely with the business community to provide new tools to support them in reopening safely.

Ottawa businesses are working hard and quickly adapting to the new requirements to keep their employees and customers as safe as possible. Let's honour their efforts by being respectful and patient customers that protect the health of employees.

Visit our Businesses and Workplace webpage to see the updated guidance documents for businesses as well as a new COVID-19 guidance for places of worship.

Be #COVIDWise

As we continue to reopen and consistently report low new case numbers, please remember to be COVIDwise. We can continue to flatten the curve as we take advantage of the new opportunities to explore and socialize while COVID-19 is present in our community.

W – Wear a cloth mask when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres.

I – Isolate yourself form others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms).

S – Stay two metres apart from those outside your household.

E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face.

Activities have high to low levels of risk when it comes to spreading the virus. Be COVIDwise by using information available on our website to help choose your activities as we work to keep the virus under control. The community of Ottawa has demonstrated that we are all able to protect each other and keep this virus at a manageable level. But we are not yet on the other side of this which is why being COVIDWise is crucial as we continue to live with COVID-19.

 June 17 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

Ottawa Board of Health recognizes racism as a public health issue

Racism, discrimination and stigma are associated with poor physical, mental and emotional health and higher mortality rates. Anti-black racism, anti-indigenous racism and racism against any minority is an important public health issue. I am pleased to share that this week, the Ottawa Board of Health unanimously approved a motion that recognizes racism as a public health issue and will direct Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) work in addressing racism in public health. This motion included directives to:

  • Provide training on anti-black racism and other racism to employees, volunteers and learners to contribute to improve health outcomes.
  • Develop an evidence-based campaign to increase awareness on the impacts of racism and discrimination.
  • Establish a process in collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Metis partners to ensure respectful planning, collection, analysis and sharing of health data to inform improvements to physical and mental health of indigenous populations in Ottawa.
  • Inform community consultations on addressing systemic racism in Ottawa.

OPH is committed to engage and work with residents, partners and communities to develop the conditions to support health and health equity for everyone in Ottawa. In addition to partnerships to help us move in a direction that will lead to meaningful change, we will engage with Councilor Rawlson King, the council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Relations Initiatives for the City of Ottawa.

COVID-19 Weekly supplemental report

As you are aware, last week OPH introduced its new COVID-19 dashboard. Additionally, supplemental COVID-19 epidemiology reports are made available on our website. These include the most current information available from the dynamic disease reporting system as of 2 p.m. the day before posting.

Some weeks, there will be a Special Focus included in a Weekly Supplement that will provide a brief analysis of a topic of interest. Today’s supplemental report provides more information about the occupations of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. Information on the occupations of those infected with COVID-19 can improve our understanding of who may be at higher risk and how the disease is spreading. While this report does not suggest exposure sites, this is information that is collected during the case management process.  Among occupational groups, healthcare workers have had the greatest number of infections to-date. It’s important to note that the testing of healthcare workers and essential workers has been prioritized compared to the rest of the population.  As we continue to ease restrictions, everyone is encouraged to be vigilant, regardless of their occupation. OPH will continue to monitor trends as more settings re-open.  

Stage 2 reopening

As many businesses continue to reopen and we increase our activities, OPH will continue to monitor the level of infection in the community. It will take a period of weeks before we can assess the impact of reopening. Looking at the latest data, the trends are positive across all the recovery indicators of our COVID-19 dashboard, though we are still finding cases that have no known source of infection. This means that these cases are not linked to travel, an outbreak or another known case. Since we are reopening while COVID-19 is present in our community, more widespread transmission risks a resurgence of the virus, which could again threaten the health of vulnerable individuals and surpass our hospitals’ capacity. We each need to continue to do our part to prevent transmission of the virus.

With reopening, we are faced with more choices of what we might do. However, not all activities have the same risk for transmission. In general, being outside is better than inside, the fewer our contacts the lower the risk, and physical distancing continues to be of primary importance. Being COVIDwise will help prevent transmission for yourself, your family and others. This includes: wear a cloth mask when you cannot maintain physical distance with others, isolate yourself and get tested when you are sick, and wash your hands regularly. Whether as a participant in an activity, or a close contact of another who is participating, particular caution is needed for vulnerable individuals at increased risk of serious outcomes if they become infected. See our COVIDwise webpage for more information on risk categories of different types of activities, as well as how to be COVIDwise.  

June 12 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 
Today, we enter Stage 2 of the province’s recovery plan. We achieved this together, Ottawa. And I am incredibly proud of the people of Ottawa for getting us here.

The reality is that this isn't the end. We must all continue cautiously to prevent infections and keep the virus at a manageable level in our community. Testing and follow-up is not enough to control the virus; we must prevent transmission in the first place.

That’s why I am asking each and every one of you to continue to be COVID wise.

W – Wear a cloth mask when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres.

I – Isolate yourself form others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms).

S – Stay two metres apart from those outside your household.

E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face.

As we enter Stage 2 and resume some of our activities, being able to assess your individual situation and the associated risks and make informed decisions is key.

Because what is permissible under the provincial order will continue to change and does not address all possible scenarios, some confusion may result. There are differences between what is legally allowed and what is recommended. I appreciate that for some people this may cause a level of anxiety. OPH is here to help residents through any uncertain times by emphasizing the principles to decrease risk that do not change.

The province is now allowing group gatherings to increase from five to 10 people. And earlier today the province announced guidance on how to establish a social circle with those outside your household. No matter what, it is still wise to limit your contacts and keep gatherings to fewer people and to the same group of people over time.

Try to keep your activities outdoors. And, assess your own unique situations and associated risks – for example, whether you are or live with someone who may be at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

We have heard concerns from adults over 70 years old that they are not sure which activities they can or should resume. Just like everyone else, you need to assess your own risk as older adults are more vulnerable to this virus and keep in mind the principles of reducing the risk of transmission.

We continue to work with our City of Ottawa partners to provide more guidance on how to safely resume business.

We have contributed to the City’s business toolkit, provided specific guidance for restaurants, businesses that provide personal services and will be holding a variety of workshops over the next several weeks for different businesses like day camps and childcare services, construction and manufacturing, offices and professional services, retail and vehicle dealerships and more.

Our local businesses sacrificed much by staying closed or reducing services to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Let's honour their efforts by being respectful and patient customers that protect the health of employees.

Let's learn to be COVID-wise: visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDwise for more information.

Visiting long-term care homes

Yesterday the Province of Ontario announced that visits will be allowed to resume in long-term care and retirement homes starting June 18 with certain limitations. For example, a home must not be in outbreak, must have established visitor protocols in place and must maintain the highest infection prevention and control standards. Only outdoor visits will be permitted during this first phase, and only one visitor at a time per resident. According to the provincial Ministry of Long-Term Care policy, visitors will be required to pass active screening every time they visit, confirming with staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks.

Visitors should consider their personal health and susceptibility to the virus in determining whether visiting a long-term care home is appropriate.

It is important to note that homes can decide if they want or need to continue prohibiting visits, and if so, they should continue to offer virtual visits. The actions of one visitor that may unknowingly introduce COVID19 into a home could lead to extremely negative consequences, so utmost care is important.

The role that families, visitors and loved ones play in providing care-giving and emotional supports is important for the quality of life and health for residents in long-term care homes and must be balanced with mitigating the risk of death for residents.

More information on long-term care home visits can be found at ontario.ca.

Daily COVID-19 dashboard

Data plays an important part in helping to guide us in our community response with recommendations as we move forward into new stages of reopening.

Earlier this week we launched our new Daily COVID-19 Dashboard, a live interactive tool that is updated daily as data becomes available from the COVID-19 Ottawa Database. This dynamic tool serves as your primary source of up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and core indicators for local monitoring.

The new tool provides a comprehensive snapshot of information that was previously housed in more than one place. You can still find archived reports prior to June 10 on our website, however, moving forward you will be able to use the interactive dashboard to find current information.

My team has developed a guide to help users understand how to use the tool. The guide is available on the website in the same location of the dashboard. We welcome your feedback as we continue to prioritize transparency and share information with the public.

My focus and Ottawa Public Health’s role is to provide guidance and help you make informed decisions to keep our City healthy. With ongoing caution, we can get back to more of the things we enjoy safely.

Stay safe and be COVIDWise.

June 10 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has launched a new dynamic reporting tool to compliment the COVID-19 Dashboard. This tool will provide up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and core indicators to assess the situation in Ottawa. The new tool provides a comprehensive snapshot of information that was previously housed in more than one place. To facilitate access we have streamlined information into one interactive daily report and a weekly supplement. 

OPH prides itself on its transparent reporting of information. We welcome your continued feedback on our reports and the way we are presenting information to the public. 

Societal Impacts survey​

In March, we completed the first wave of a population-level survey looking at perceptions and practices in Ottawa during the COVID-19 response. We recently completed a second wave of questions for the public about mask use, hand hygiene and physical distancing practices.  The majority of Ottawans report wearing masks indoors, washing their hands before eating, and maintaining a distance of 2 metres from others when indoors.  These measures will prevent transmission of COVID19 in our community and are important to continue.  By learning more about how Ottawa residents are managing through this time, we are better equipped to work with the community to provide supports where needed. ​

​​OPH thanks the team at EKOS Research Associates for their collaboration on these two survey streams. ​

Entering Stage 2

With the provincial announcement of Stage 2 “reopening” starting on Friday June 12 in Ottawa, many questions have been raised as people try to grasp the nuances and how it impacts their ability to see their families and socialize. While the province has said we can now gather in groups of 10 or less, physical distancing is still required when meeting with people outside your household to limit transmission of COVID-19, as there are still cases arising in the community with no known exposure. Furthermore, limiting your number of contacts to the same small group of people as much as possible will add to our ability to keep the level of COVID-19 transmission under control.

We have to continue to be cautious with reopening; with each additional opportunity to interact with others, there is an increased risk of virus transmission.  

I am confident that we can enter Stage 2 with ongoing care. The data shows that Ottawa residents have heard our public health messaging loud and clear, and it is your actions that have allowed us to transition into this new stage. Cases, hospitalizations and outbreaks have all decreased. Hospital capacity is positive. We are on target with contacting cases and their follow up.  Testing volume is up and the percentage of tests that are positive is down.

We have gotten this far, and we cannot let up on our efforts to control the virus. The future is in our hands, Ottawa. Be COVIDWiseWear a mask, Isolate when sick (and seek testing if you have symptoms), Stay two metres apart from others, and Exercise proper hand hygiene. Everyone’s actions have helped keep the transmission of the virus down and prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. As we enter Stage 2, it’s up to you to make informed decisions and lessen your risk of infection and the risk to people close to you.

Stay the course Ottawa. We are in this together. 

June 8 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

On Friday, June 5, Ottawa Public Health posted social media message that may have caused some confusion with regards to COVID-19 and immunity. My message to the public continues to be that we do not have enough information to definitively say how long people are immune to COVID-19 after infection with the virus.

The information previously posted on our website that indicated that people who have recovered from COVID-19 likely have some protection from re-infection was removed as soon as OPH became aware that information was not as clear as it could have been. Our website has since been updated to reflect the latest information we have about immunity.

There is no conclusive evidence of people being re-infected with COVID-19 at this timeAs the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness (the virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2) was discovered in January, scientists and researchers are still in the process of studying the virus and its antibodies. More evidence and information regarding re-infection is anticipated in the coming weeks and months.

What we do know is that people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection have some antibodies to fight future COVID-19 infections but it is not yet known how long this immunity will last. As such, we encourage all residents to continue following public health recommendations to limit the spread of transmission and we need to continue to consider that any individual we encounter may be at risk for infection.

I know that residents rely on us for timely and accurate information on all public health matters. We apologize for any confusion this caused. Information regarding COVID-19 is changing every day and we do our best to ensure we are providing the most accurate, up to date, information available. 

am incredibly proud of the team at OPH whose tireless and unwavering communications efforts have without a doubt directly contributed to saving thousands of lives here in Ottawa.

Regional reopening

Today the Ontario government announced that it is moving forward with a regional approach to Stage 2 of reopening the province.

Based on the trends of key public health indicators such as lower rates of transmission, increased capacity in hospitals and progress made in testing, the province is easing restrictions in communities where it is safe to do so, including Ottawa. These changes will be effective June 12, 2020.

These changes include increasing the size of gatherings from five people or less to 10 or less and the reopening of more businesses and public spaces including hair salons, patios, outdoor recreation facilities, shopping malls and places of worship.

We are currently reviewing the approach and how it impacts us here in Ottawa and I am confident that we can enter Stage 2 with ongoing care. The data shows that Ottawa residents have heard our public health messaging loud and clear, and it is your actions that have allowed us to transition into this new stage.

Thank you to our laboratory technologists and technicians

In the past, I have acknowledged various professionals working the frontline in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, I want to highlight the integral role of medical laboratory technologists and technicians for their response to COVID-19.  Since day one of the pandemic, they have been working with COVID-19 patients taking samples and processing tests within our community to combat the spread and flatten the curve. Without these essential workers, COVID-19 and many other diseases cannot be diagnosed which is crucial information to allow doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to treat patients, and for public health contact tracing to prevent further spreadThank you for your devotion and continued work in the background of this massive undertaking to manage COVID-19. For more information about this group please refer to mlpao.org.

Testing is an important step in preventing further transmission of the virus in our community. Since laboratory capacity has been able to expand, testing for COVID-19 is now available to anyone who thinks they may have been at risk for exposure to the infectionOPH strongly recommends that anyone with symptoms of COVID-like illness present for testing soon as possible after feeling ill.

Be COVID wise

Through everyone’s actions, we have been successful in reducing the number of infections that would have otherwise occurred. Overall, we estimate that only a small percentage of Ottawans have been infected with COVID-19 to date, therefore the vast majority of us remain susceptible to infection. The new cases and hospitalizations we report mean that the virus is still present in our community.

As we continue along the path to resume activities and sometimes adopt new approaches to work and service provision, OPH will be carefully monitoring the impact on infection rates in our community and communicating trends in our daily epidemiology dashboard. The people of Ottawa have successfully kept the virus to a manageable level in our community and this is the ongoing goal into the future.

We encourage all residents to continue following public health recommendations to limit the spread of transmission: practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible.  As groups of 10 will be permitted, limiting your number of contacts to the same group of people as much as possible will add to our ability to keep the level of COVID-19 transmission under control.

Thank you for your continuing care.

June 5, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches and Dr. Brent Moloughney

Some people have been describing this week’s marches as a conflict between democracy and protecting the health of the population. I don’t see it that way.  There are two challenges to the health of the population that are raised by the marches.  And, one of them has far deeper roots and has had negative impacts on public health for far longer than the other.

Anti-black racism and racism against minorities makes our population less healthy. Racism, discrimination and stigma are associated with poorer physical, mental and emotional health and greater mortality.  My job is to not only control infectious diseases but also to promote the health of the population by working with others to ensure fair opportunities for health.

We have seen how COVID-19 has stigmatized certain racialized groups. According to a recent report published by Public Health Ontario on COVID-19 and diversity, the most ethno-culturally diverse neighbourhoods in Ontario, primarily those concentrated in large urban areas, are experiencing disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 and related deaths compared to neighbourhoods that are the less diverse. The rate of COVID-19 infections in the most diverse neighbourhoods was three times higher than the rate in the least diverse neighbourhoods. And people living in the most diverse neighbourhoods were also more likely to experience severe outcomes (hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths) than people living in the least diverse neighbourhoods, even after controlling for age and population concentration:

  • hospitalization rates were four times higher
  • ICU admission rates were four times higher
  • death rates were twice as high

We need better data to understand how racism is affecting people’s health. We are working with groups such as the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership and with health system partners to collect race and ethnicity data in order to better understand the barriers to health and healthcare in Ottawa, and health outcomes for people who are racialized.

People have had disproportionately difficult impacts on their lives and it is important for people to have a voice within our democracy to counter racism.

Today, I am finding virtual ways to express my support and continuing work within my institution to make changes to address anti-black racism and racism against minorities. Ottawa Public Health is focusing on work that we all need to do to change how our programs and services support people who have the least advantage and are harmed by racism.

Today, I encourage you to take action by learning more about what is happening in our community, and about how racism affects the health of our population. Speak to your children about racism. Speak out when you see racism happening and recognize when even you yourself might be guilty of stereotyping or bias. When we have privilege we need to work to grow the opportunities for people who have less. And ensure voices of people with less advantage are heard.

We understand that people are hurting. We are listening.

As for the other risk to the health of our population raised by the marches – COVID-19 – large numbers crowding within two metres of others does create a high risk for transmission of the virus.  OPH is providing information to make sure people make the decision to march in an informed way.

Be as safe as possible if you are marching today.  Stay home if you are ill and make sure you present for testing if you develop symptoms of illness in the two weeks following participating in the march. 

Thank you for continuing to limit the number of contacts that you have as much as possible.  Your work to physically distance in the days following the march continues to be important to limit deaths due to COVID-19.

United Way – #FacingForward mask project

Together with Ottawa Public Health, United Way recently launched their #FacingForward project. As we continue to strongly recommend the use of cloth masks when physical distancing is not possible, we recognize that for many acquiring a cloth mask isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Whether it’s poverty, homelessness or isolation that make getting a mask a challenge, we need to fill those gaps and ensure everyone has what they need to keep our communities healthy. We are asking the community to help in three different ways where possible: You can buy, give or even make masks. We are committed to making sure that every person in the community is protected. More information can be found on the United Way’s website -  unitedwayeo.ca/facing-forward

Be COVID wise

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a different and difficult year for all of us. The more we start to interact in public again, the more mindful we must be of our actions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Through everyone’s actions, we have been successful in reducing the number of infections that would have otherwise occurred. Overall, we estimate that only a small percentage of Ottawans have been infected with COVID so far, perhaps as low as one per cent, but possibly a bit higher. Regardless of the specific number, the key implication is that the vast majority of us remain susceptible to infection. The new cases and hospitalizations we report mean that the virus is still present in our community. In order to track cases within Ottawa and to limit transmission, please seek testing if you think you may be infected with the virus.

As more activities become possible, the new normal will be to consider how risky an activity is and how you can reduce the risk of transmission for yourself, your family and others. In general, outdoor activities are less risky than indoor ones. The more people that are involved, and the closer the contact, the higher the risk. Another important consideration is whether any of the individuals or the people in their households are at risk of serious outcomes if they become infected.

As our city reopens, we are asking the public to be COVID wise and assess the risk of your chosen activity. Assess the situation, consider whether the activity is lower or higher risk, or somewhere in-between, and whether physical distancing can be maintained. Wearing a cloth masks is an important strategy when distancing cannot be maintained. For extra help on low- to high-risk activities, please see the OPH website for more information.

The overarching need to prevent transmission of COVID-19 is of utmost importance as we get back to activities. We are in this together in every way. Everyone within the community continues to have a role to play in preventing spread of the virus and we thank you for all of your efforts to do so.

June 3, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney

Racism and COVID-19

Recent events in the news involving racial violence have left many Ottawa residents and Canadians hurt, angry and looking for answers. Much of the attention has focused on the United States, but with our proximity to the US and our own continuing issues with racism, this has led to protests across our nation as well.

Racism is a public health issue and Ottawa is not immune.

Sadly, with the emergence of COVID-19, we have seen rising racism, xenophobia, discrimination, hate incidents and crimes targeting our Asian communities globally and here in Canada.

As a virus, COVID-19 does not discriminate. Anyone can be infected. Evidence has shown that certain groups may be more impacted by COVID-19 than others due to broader health and social factors that increase the risk of contracting the disease and of being able to protect others. COVID-19 affects us all, but some people are facing incredibly difficult circumstances and hardships. Support, kindness and compassion is what we need now.

As an organization, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has been proactive in assessing how to better educate our staff on the issues relating to racism regarding health and access to care. We are working with our City partners to confront and address systemic racism throughout our community.

Marches are taking place all over the world this week including here in Ottawa. We understand that people want to gather to march and express themselves. If you are planning on joining the crowds to march this week, please do so responsibly by taking steps to keep yourself and other participants as safe as possible to reduce the risk of transmission:

  • Maintain physical distancing of at least two metres when possible 
  • Wear a cloth face mask at all times  
  • Bring hand sanitizer with you and also wash your hands upon returning home
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Consider alternatives to yelling and shouting to avoid spreading droplets
  • Clean any materials that you carried during the march
  • As always, while COVID-19 is circulating in the community, monitor yourself for symptoms and if any symptoms develop, get yourself tested right away.

If you are more susceptible to serious complications if you contract COVID-19 (e.g. older adult, have chronic illnesses or are immunocompromised), reconsider the need to be present in a large crowd and perhaps find a way to participate virtually. I would also add that if you have a vulnerable person in your household, you should also consider participating virtually. And if you are sick, please stay home.  

Reducing the risk of transmission

Last week, we launched the Ottawa COVID-19 Dashboard to provide up-to-date information on core indicators for local monitoring and informing reopening decisions. This public dashboard, which is updated daily, will hopefully help residents better understand the situation and the impact of their actions. Each of us matter and each of us will help determine the trajectory of the number of infections in our community and the opportunity for more businesses and settings to re-open.

As more places open, it is easy to think the virus has gone away. But it remains in our community. So, when you are in a public setting (indoors or outdoors), it is important to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres and wear a cloth mask when necessary.

The more we start to gather in public again with the opening of businesses and outdoor spaces, the more mindful we must be of our actions as we learn to live with COVID-19 in our community.

When outdoors, use caution when:

  • Passing others. Sidestep, pass quickly and courteously, and/or stagger yourselves to not be directly behind others when walking, running, cycling and other outdoor activities.
  • Spending time with others. Keep visits outdoors (including your backyard or driveway) with people who are not part of your household.

In indoor settings, use caution and routinely apply the principles of physical distancing, mask use, and washing your hands before and after activities such as:

  • Using public transportation including buses and taxis
  • Grocery and retail shopping and farmers’ markets
  • Attending medical appointments
  • Ordering take-out food and curbside pick-up
  • Allowing service providers in your home for renovations, cleaning, maintenance, etc.

View our Be COVID Wise: Understand Your Risks during COVID-19 poster for additional information about red, least safe options and green, safer options.

June 1, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Ethnicity and COVID-19

Some evidence has shown that certain groups may be more impacted by COVID-19 than others; not only by contracting the disease itself, but due to broader health and social impacts of the pandemic. For example, we are seeing that racialized communities have been disproportionately impacted – that they may be more at risk to contracting COVID-19 but also that they have faced prejudice, racism and discrimination, sadly in some cases by verbal and physical assault.

These situations are emotionally challenging. COVID-19 affects us all, but some people are facing incredibly difficult circumstances and hardships. Support, kindness and compassion is what we need now.

Ottawa Public Health is working to collect ethnicity and income data to understand risks of exposure among different groups in Ottawa. We are also working with the Human Needs Task Force and partners such as the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership to ensure that people have access to services and social supports and to counter effects of racism, poverty and  social and education disparities to promote health and safety for everyone in our community.

OPH is exploring opportunities to collaborate with the City’s Anti-Racism Directorate with Councillor Rawlson King. We are working with partners to develop a campaign to increase awareness of the impacts of racism and discrimination.

June marks the start of National Indigenous History Month, an opportunity to learn about and celebrate Indigenous heritage, diversity and culture while acknowledging and reflecting on the achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

OPH is committed to Reconciliation. We work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples and communities to advance Indigenous health equity. Currently we are working with partners to better understand how COVID-19 is affecting Indigenous communities and uncover the true impacts including the health and social effects of closures and physical distancing on First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

Take care of yourself, talk to someone you trust, try to unplug from media or choose a specific time of the day to check the news. Reach out to the Distress Center of Ottawa (613-238-3311) if you need someone to talk to or visit OPH’s Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage for additional mental health resources.

Vigilance with reopening

For many, the recent shift in both warmer weather and the reopening of businesses means a shift in our daily activities. We’re outside more, we’re running more of our usual errands and we’re therefore encountering more opportunities to interact with others. While more interactions means increased risk, we can fortunately reduce the risk if we each play our part in preventing the spread of infection.

To date, physical distancing has been a key component of our response to the virus. As we slowly loosen the restrictions that have been in place for the last several weeks, it will be critical that  we continue to stay two metres away from others and, when we can’t, that we wear a cloth maskespecially indoors and on public transit systemsWe all have a responsibility to do our part in preventing transmission not only to protect ourselves but also our health care system, and at-risk populations.

Last week we launched the Ottawa COVID-19 Dashboard. This tool gives us a snapshot of the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa and provides up-to-date information on core indicators for local monitoring and informing reopening decisionsIt includes four sections: (1) Virus Spread and Containment; (2) Health Care System Capacity; (3) Public Health; and (4) Testing and Tracking. Collectively, we want all four areas to show capacity and progress. If over time the trends continue as they are, that would be very positive. Our collective actions will determine the trajectory and we will continue to monitor these trends closely.

The people of Ottawa deserve credit for following the protocols that have been put in place to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbours and our friends Stay the course, Ottawa: your actions are making a difference.

Provincial testing strategy

Ottawa continues to follow guidance provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health regarding testing. The Ontario government recently announced the next phase of its COVID-19 testing plan, Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing. The provincial plan includes three branches of testing:

  • assessment centre testing with expanded criteria to include asymptomatic individuals.
  • targeted campaigns with expanded surveillance testing for vulnerable populations not showing symptoms, including in long term care homes, congregate settings, and workplaces in priority sectors.
  • outbreak management with testing to ensure rapid and agile response capacity in specific neighbourhoods and regions or at hospitals, institutions and workplaces.

Ottawa health care providers are working together to follow this three-part approach as well.

OPH’s role in the testing strategy is to inform the testing approach with the lens of access for less-advantaged populations, as well as if clusters or outbreaks are identified. The Champlain Health Region Incident Command oversees the operational side (i.e. the actual testing) and implements the assessment centre and targeted campaigns, such as testing in long-term care homes.

Any Ottawa resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can present for testing. In addition to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics, some family doctors’ offices are providing this service, and mobile services are available for populations with need. OPH still recommends using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool if you are worried you were exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms.

I would like to caution everyone that a negative test does not mean that you have “beat” the virus and that you are not at risk of getting COVID-19 at a later date. We still have community spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa. We must continue to practice physical distancing, wear a cloth mask when physical distancing is a challenge, and wash our hands regularly. These simple actions will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep us safer.

Seniors Month

June is Seniors Month in Ontario, an opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions that older adults make to our families, our community and our society.

We recognize that these are very challenging times for older adults as they continue to self-isolate due to the risk of COVID-19. I want to encourage everyone to consider the older adults in your life, not only this month, but always. Give them a call. Write them a letter – anything to show that you are thinking of them and that you care.

Ottawa Public Health is excited to be collaborating with the Council on Aging of Ottawa and the National Association of Federal Retirees to offer the Let’s Talk COVID-19 & Reopening with Older Adults event.

This moderated session will include greetings from Mayor Jim Watson and our partners, the Council on Aging of Ottawa and the National Association of Federal Retirees, followed by a Q&A session where I will personally address your questions regarding COVID-19, reopening and what this means for older adults.

When: Wednesday June 3, 2020 at 1 pm 

Who 

  • Mayor Jim Watson  

  • Sarah BercierExecutive Director, The Council on Aging of Ottawa  

  • Linda Barber, Ottawa Branch Manager, National Association of Federal Retirees  

  • Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa Public Health   

Please join us online for this exciting Facebook Live event here: www.Facebook.com/AgingWellInOttawa or on YouTube via the OPH website: www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.

A Facebook account is not needed to join the event. 

May 29, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches and Dr. Brent Moloughney

Dr. Vera Etches

First, I would like to begin by expressing my condolences to the family and friends of the personal support worker who recently passed away from the Madonna Care Home. Our thoughts are with you.

The Ottawa community has understood well the extraordinary measures required to avoid a health system catastrophe from COVID-19 infections increasing too quickly.  Because of Ottawans taking precautions, we are seeing results.  We can start to get back to work and access more services.  Thank you for continuing to observe recommendations through this challenging time.  

Testing

The Champlain Health Region Incident Command (CHRIC) oversees COVID-19 testing centres and the Eastern Ontario Laboratory Association.  Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is working with CHRIC to continue to adjust the COVID-19 testing strategy to balance demand for tests with laboratory capacity and ensure testing follows identified priorities.

Tests are completed in three general categories in Ottawa and across the province. First, for public health purposes related to case and contact management and controlling outbreaks.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, OPH conducts contact tracing to identify contacts at risk for infection to stop the chain of transmission. In addition to self-isolation or self-monitoring of contacts, testing is used to identify those who may have become infected. When there is an outbreak in a congregate setting or workplace, staff and residents with the closest contact are tested, but depending upon the scenario, individuals on one floor or in the entire setting  are tested as part of disease control actions.  

Second, ongoing “surveillance” testing occurs in congregate settings. CHRIC and OPH are taking a risk-based approach so that congregate settings that face greater challenges to infection prevention and control complete testing more frequently. The frequency and approach will be further defined by the province.

The last category of testing is of the broader public that may be at risk of infection with COVID-19. People who have COVID-19-like symptoms are a priority for testing as soon as possible after symptoms appear.  The testing of more asymptomatic  people may provide more information about the geographic distribution of infections and hopefully help identify sources of exposure in the community to enable action to stop transmission.

Any Ottawa resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can present for testing. In addition to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics, some family doctors’ offices are providing this service, and mobile services are available for populations with need by referral. OPH still recommends using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool if you are worried you were exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms.

Daily screening of workers for symptoms of COVID-19

With workplaces increasingly reopening, OPH is encouraging daily screening of everyone working in the workplace by asking people if they have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and cough, sore throat or cold symptoms. Symptomatic people should go home, self-isolate and seek COVID-19 testing.  Tests are currently being turned around in about a day. Screening tools are available on OPH’s businesses and workplaces webpage at ottawapublichealth.ca.

OPH encourages individuals to seek medical care if feeling unwell by contacting your healthcare provider.

 

Dr. Brent Moloughney

Living with COVID-19

As we adapt to living with COVID-19, controlling the rate of transmission and the number of cases will help keep this virus under control. Only a few cases at the beginning of the pandemic in Ottawa required us to ramp up public health measures. At that time, the number of infections was doubling every three to four days.  

Until there is a vaccine or an effective treatment, while there is COVID-19 infection in Ottawa, public health advice includes practicing physical distancing, hand hygiene, wearing a cloth mask when physical distancing is not possible and limiting your contacts; all these measures are going to be part of our new normal.

Warm weather has finally arrived, businesses are reopening and more people are going back to work. This is good for our mental health and the economy, and we need to be wise with our actions as we continue to live with COVID-19.

I’m happy to see more people wearing masks when out in public places. This shows that people are getting the message to wear a mask when physical distancing may not be possible. This will become our new normal as the city reopens. Remember: my mask protects you and your mask protects me.

We are following the provincial framework to reopen which includes monitoring four dimensions: virus spread and containment, health care system capacity, public health behaviours and testing and tracing capacity.

Questions are arising about what is permissible and what is not as provincial orders change and many provincial restrictions remain in place.  Please continue to use the principle of protecting yourselves and others as you choose activities.

Examples of high-risk activities include having guests over, going to crowded places and participating in team or contact sports. Low-risk activities include going to less-crowded beaches or parks, enjoying a hobby alone like bird watching or shopping online with home delivery or curbside pickup options (preferably locally).

I know Ottawa is a resilient city. We’ve been through challenges before. And we’ve always worked together to address them and come out on the other side.

May 27, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

I am saddened, disturbed and concerned about what was reported in the Canadian Armed Forces report (OP Laser – JTFC Observations in long-term care facilities in Ontario). I am supportive of the Ontario government’s immediate action to investigate further in long-term care homes (LTCH) across the province. Everyone deserves proper care and a safe home.

OPH is continuing to work with healthcare partners to provide infection prevention and control (IPAC) support LTCH to control COVID-19 in our community. Homes in outbreak are contacted almost daily and regular on-site visits enable direct assessment of IPAC practices in the homes. Every LTCH and retirement home is rated every day in terms of needs for support, whether for IPAC training or supplies, and as it relates to staffing. In other cities, the military has been brought in when staffing levels could not be met. Here in Ottawa, LTCHs in greatest need have been paired with hospitals and the Champlain Health Region Incident Command (CHRIC) monitors how hospitals are meeting staffing requests of homes, as well as works to build capacity of homes to hire needed support. The LTCH regulator’s inspectors have been kept informed about work underway in Ottawa-based homes.

Beat the heat

We are currently experiencing our first heatwave of this summer, which will be challenging in a different way this year. Heat warnings mean extra precautions need to be taken by everyone. Some of the usual ways we cool off are not yet available this summer because of measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please think ahead and plan for ways to stay cool and keep in touch with others who may not be able to stay cool, especially during a heat warning. Some ways to protect yourself and help others during hot weather:

The City of Ottawa has set up four emergency cooling centres to provide relief from the heat to residents in need. The emergency cooling centers are set up to ensure users can practice proper physical distancing and will have access to washrooms and water. Residents should bring a cloth mask with them to the cooling centres if they have one. Emergency cooling centres will be open Tuesday, May 26 from 3 pm to 7 pm, and will operate on Wednesday, May 27 and Thursday May 28 from 11 am to 7 pm.  We expect this heat wave to subside by end of day Thursday. The emergency cooling centres are located at the following City facilities: 

  • Ron Kolbus Centre: 102 Greenview Avenue
  • Hunt Club Community Centre: 3320 Paul Anka Drive
  • Sandy Hill Community Centre: 250 Somerset Street East
  • St-Laurent Complex: 525 Coté Street

Visit OPH’s Extreme Heat and Humidity page for more information.

Testing

OPH continues to follow guidance provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health regarding testing. Any Ottawa resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can present for testing. Note that this may lead to longer waits to access testing if many people show up. In addition to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics, some family doctors’ offices are providing this service, and mobile services are available for populations with need. OPH still recommends using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool if you are worried you were exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms.

We continue to work with healthcare partners to ensure this increased testing capacity is best used to find out where the virus is in the community and break chains of transmission.

Mental health support​

Unfortunately, as is often the case during a difficult time, we are seeing that mental health concerns and issues are on the rise, perhaps exacerbated because residents may not have access to their regular coping strategies. ​The Ottawa Distress Centre has seen a significant spike in calls for help to access mental health and addiction supports and for people in crisis. ​Increases in stress, anxiousness, sadness and loneliness have been highlighted from local service providers.   ​

​OPH and our community and hospital partners have come together to better support residents. ​We are very proud of our partners supporting mental health and grateful for the work they have been doing. ​Some examples include the Royal Ottawa's C-PROMPT clinic providing ongoing counselling services, which received over 400 referrals since it launched on April 16, and the Royal's Health Care Worker Mental Health Clinic providing clinical services to healthcare workers and paramedics. ​The Ottawa Health Team and partner agencies, including OPH, are providing the Counselling Connect service for same-day or next-day phone or video counselling. And, as part of the Kids Come First Health Team, Youth Services Bureau (YSB) has modified their 24/7 crisis service to help youth and families get connected to the right Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions service in Ottawa.

​​Visit OPH’s Mental Health and COVID-19 page for additional resources.

Living with COVID-19

I am pleased to share that when OPH contact tracers follow-up with COVID-19 positive cases, contacts per case dropped from approximately20 contacts to ​an average of five. This shows that people are being smart about distancing and helping to continue plank the curve.

Despite this progress, we only have a small margin of safety if we want to continue to pin down the virus. If we increase our close contacts too widely and too quickly, the number of cases and outbreaks may rise sharply, which will put a burden on the health care system – something we have fortunately avoided so far. As we reopen and are no longer focusing on “just staying home,” we need to be smart about distancing, engaging in lower risk activities and learning to live with the virus.

Keep protecting others by wearing a cloth mask when a two-metre distance cannot be kept and limiting your contacts. We are working with various partners to develop a supply of cloth masks for those who will have difficulty accessing or purchasing a mask. I hope to share more details as we finalize those details and partnerships.

NEW: Ottawa COVID-19 Dashboard

We’ve been exploring different measures to better convey how OPH is monitoring COVID-19’s spread in the community, which is especially important now that restrictions have begun to ease and the province is reopening. Today, we launched the Ottawa COVID-19 Dashboard to provide this information to the public in a user-friendly format.

We’ve introduced a colour-coding system to let people know what is the bottom-line. On a scale from red, orange, yellow and green, we are currently in the orange category. The colour rating is based on our public health and health system capacity, our ability to test and track the virus and on current spread in the community. This new public dashboard, which will be updated daily, will hopefully help residents better understand the situation and the impact of their actions. Each of us matter and each of us will help determine the trajectory of the number of infections in our community and our freedoms into the future.

May 25, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Thank you to everyone who practiced physical distancing over what was another beautiful weekend in Ottawa. Spending time in nature can have positive impacts on our mental health and the sunshine and warmer temperatures makes being outdoors much more enticing for many of us. 

I want to continue to stress the importance that as we go about reopening Ottawa and resuming activities, we must do so in a smart way, which includes keeping our two metre distance from others and wearing a mask in close contact with people outside our households. The likelihood and severity of a second wave is largely determined by our actions; what we do today will impact our future freedoms.  

Testing strategy 

Yesterday Premier Doug Ford stated that anyone in Ontario who is worried about having been exposed to COVID-19 can present for testing even if not showing symptoms. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and the COVID-19 Assessment Centre & COVID-19 Care Clinics are awaiting further guidance provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health regarding testing.  

Any Ottawa resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms of illness, can now go for testing at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre or the COVID-19 Care Clinics and should not be turned away unless volumes are significant.  Populations at highest risk for COVID-19 transmission like healthcare workers and people with symptoms of illness will need to be prioritized if demand outstrips capacity. 

The available test detects COVID-19 virus in the body, not antibodies, so the test cannot tell you if you have had COVID-19 infection in the past. 

Since yesterday’s provincial announcement, we have seen increased numbers of individuals presenting for testing at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and COVID-19 Care Clinics. If you do present for testing, please be prepared for longer wait times and wear a mask if you are able to do so. When wait times are significant, priority will be given to residents from high-risk groups and those showing symptoms.  

Our website has been updated to reflect this change in testing: please see www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for more details. We expect a formal testing strategy to be announced by the ministry later this week. 

In addition to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics, some family doctors offices are providing this service, and mobile services are available for populations with need. We will be announcing further options for accessing COVID19 tests in the future.I am pleased that our labs have been able to increase testing capacity. As it stands, the Champlain region is able to process approximately 1,900 tests per day. We are working with healthcare partners to ensure this increased testing capacity is best used tofind out where the virus is in the community and break chains of transmission, with a focus on populations at highest risk.  

For more information on testing, please visit ottawapublichealth.ca

Reopening cautiously 

We’ve been asked about the number of cases rising in Ontario and whether it really is the right time to be reopening. At this point, increases in cases are mostly in the Greater Toronto Area, not in Ottawa.   We will continue to monitor the situation locally and inform the public; people need to know what is happening where they live. 

Last Friday, Dr. Doug Manuel shared a cautionary note on reopening: while everyone in Ottawa has contributed to flattening the curve, we cannot move forward as though the virus is gone.  We still have outbreaks and a stable level of hospitalizations in Ottawa. We must find ways to live with this virus.  Our goal is to resume activities in a way that decreases risk of transmission – keeping distance between ourselves and supporting businesses’ employees’ health and protecting others by wearing masks when within two metres of someone. 

Heat preparedness 

Hot weather has come early this year in Ottawa and southern Ontario. To reduce the burden on our health care system, I want to remind residents of ways to prevent heat-related illnesses.    

Heat and high humidity can be difficult to deal with, especially for people at risk such as older adults, infants, outdoor workers and people with pre-existing health conditions.  

Ottawa Public Health is encouraging residents to get ready for the heat by having a plan on how they will stay cool and prevent heat related illnesses.  With many of our usual places to cool off not open right now, such as libraries, pools and shopping malls we will have to rely on other means to cool off.   

Cool water and the use of fans or air conditioning are two very effective ways of staying cool. Some good reminders to prevent heat related illnesses include: 

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated 
  • Cool off in the shade or at a park or greenspace.  
  • Use a fan and mist your skin with water  
  • Take cool baths and showers as often as needed  
  • Soak hands and/or feet in cool water 
  • Keep your home cool by closing blinds and curtains during the day 
  • Stay connected with people in your community who have a difficult time coping with hot weather and those who live alone. Check on them regularly. 
  • Practice sun safety. 

For more information visit ottawapublichealth.ca/beattheheat

Hot weather concerns and face masks: 

Wearing a mask is important to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in any indoor setting where it may be difficult to maintain at least two-metre distancing or the room or corridor is small. Wearing a mask may not be necessary outdoors (where higher temperatures may be more of a concern) if distances can be maintained. 

Masks do become more uncomfortable in hot temperatures, but they will still work. The general public should plan outdoor outings for the coolest times of the day and take breaks in the shade or a cool environment if they are finding a face mask uncomfortable in the heat.   

For people undertaking physical exertion in heat, a mask can make the effort more difficult. Decreasing intensity/volume of work, more frequent rests, and more cooling breaks may be necessary. Discuss your health needs with your employer. 

Paramedic Services Week 

This week is Paramedic Services Week, an opportunity to recognize the invaluable work these frontline workers commit to every day. 

Our paramedics are on the front lines during this fight against COVID-19 and have played an integral role in responding to and preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

On behalf of Ottawa Public Health, thank you Ottawa paramedics for being there to help protect the health and well-being of all Ottawa residents.  

May 22, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

At the end of this first week of reopening, and as the warmer weather appears to be here to stay, many people may be feeling like we have entered a new phase of this pandemic, and they would be correct. And, now is not the time to ease up on our efforts that have been keeping this virus pinned down. We are still learning how we can live with COVID-19 in our community while continuing to do some of the activities that we enjoy. I can’t say enough that we must continue to keep physical distancing and wear a cloth mask in situations when we can’t keep a two-metre distance from others outside our household.  These activities prevent infections.

We are still in this together as a community to protect ourselves and others.   

As we resume some of our usual activities and routines like shopping or grabbing take-out coffee, perhaps seeing others we have not seen in a long time at that two-meter distance, you may experience a variety of emotions. I for one got a little emotional yesterday when I saw the usual person serving in the coffee shop down the street when it reopened after two months. This is normal during times of stress and uncertainty and when we see signs of overcoming adversity. 

Thank you so much for your efforts in the first phase of the pandemic response and for your resilience to continue your hard work and share ideas on how we can live within this new normal.   

Testing strategy 

Testing to detect as many COVID19 infections in our community as we can is another one of the efforts that will help keep the virus pinned down as we begin to reopen Ottawa. 

I’d like to remind everyone that testing is now available to anyone with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Many family physicians’ offices are open, so please check with them first.  And, the assessment centre, care clinics and laboratories have the capacity to offer this testing for everyone that needs it. 

By getting tested, you are helping us find every case we can to stop transmission of COVID-19; this information helps us to detect cases more quickly, understand what transmission is occurring in the community, investigate potential sources and identify outbreaks earlier.   

The testing strategy continues to evolve based on the needs of the community, testing capacity as well as provincial guidance. Currently, discussions are underway about in what situations it makes sense to test people who are asymptomatic. We currently test people who are asymptomatic in situations of outbreaks in congregate care settings.  Ottawa’s testing capacity has grown significantly since the declaration of the virus in Canada, but we still do not have the capacity to test everyone in Ottawa. We’re working closely with our healthcare, provincial and federal partners to best use our testing capacity. 

We encourage employers and organizations to consider using a screening questionnaire available on OPH’s website that your staff and volunteers can use to self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms before starting their work day. Any employees with even mild symptoms should not work when ill and are strongly encouraged to present for testing.

Focus on prevention 

I know that testing gets a lot of attention, but prevention is essential and has always been a key focus for the work of public health. We would much rather prevent cases of COVID-19 in our community than chase the virus down once it starts spreading. We know that prevention saves the health care system dollars, but it also saves lives.  Not getting sick in the first place is better for everyone, particularly when there is no effective cure for the infection. 

Early public health advice to practice physical distancing has prevented transmission in our community, and I thank all of you who continue to practice preventive measures such as physical distancing, washing your hands frequently, not touching your face and wearing a cloth mask when in close contact with people outside your household.  Testing is not enough.  These measures are important to continue to limit transmission in the community.  

Case and contact management 

Connecting with people with confirmed COVID-19 and their contacts, to support them to do their part to manage their illness and decrease further transmission, is another essential public health measure in place to help keep the virus pinned down as we begin to reopen Ottawa.

When OPH is notified of a confirmed case of COVID-19, we call the individual within 24 hours and begin the process of contact tracing. Through our case and contact management work, OPH is seeing that the number of close contacts per case is now often less than five and contacts are usually household contacts. Before physical distancing and self-isolation measures were introduced, OPH was notifying approximately 15 to 20 close contacts per case. We will continue to monitor the impact of reopening and how this influences the number of close contacts per case. Modelling shows that in Ottawa, if contacts rise by even 20 per cent, we can anticipate to see hospitalizations increase.   

I encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather. Please keep doing what you're doing to limit your total contacts: stay two metres apart, wash your hands and wear a cloth mask when you can’t keep physical distance. Your actions are appreciated and will be what allows us to live in a more sustainable way in the future.   

May 20, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

During the next few months, public health’s role will be to continue to: 

  • engage with residents and stakeholders to inform next steps,  

  • engage with businesses and organizations to reopen safely,  

  • monitor the number of confirmed cases, 

  • connect with people with confirmed COVID-19 and their contacts, and  

  • control outbreaks in the community. 

Engaging with the community

One way that Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has engaged with residents is through an online engagement platform.

Today is the last day for residents to provide feedback on our survey during the first phase of the engagement platform called COVID-19: Share your thoughts. Please consider contributing your thoughts at engage.ottawa.ca/covid19 if you have not yet joined this conversation. Your feedback will help inform our approach to easing restrictions.

Since launching on May 1, we have heard from more than 1,500 residents, and more than 9,000 residents have accessed information on the page. More than 90% of respondents have shared they understand why we must continue practicing physical distancing, and that they will continue to do so even as we are able to ease restrictions. Many respondents are open to mitigation measures like wearing non-medical cloth masks (89%) and scheduling outings to limit crowding (70%). This is good news.

More information on the next phase of our engagement will be provided in the near future.

Outdoor recreational amenities

Yesterday the reopening of outdoor recreational amenities came into effect. One of the most common concerns we’ve heard from residents during the COVID-19 response was lack of ability to engage in activities in outdoor green space, so this is welcome news. It means more outdoor space for everyone to take advantage of the nice weather and to get out and be active.

Business toolkit

OPH is pleased to have supported the development of the City’s business reopening toolkit. Getting people back to work safely is a priority. We are here to support businesses to do that during this next phase.

Examples of resources in the toolkit include setting up your space to allow for physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, screening tools for employees, and signage.

If businesses are not ready to open, they don’t need to. If they are successfully offering online deliveries, curbside pick-up, or individual appointments, we encourage them continue to use those strategies. These strategies allow businesses and customers to maintain physical distancing which has been key in keeping infections down in our community so far.

I want to reiterate what Chair Egli said: Recommended physical distancing measures don’t change with reopening. Please remember to continue to stay two metres away from people who do not live in your household, and if you cannot maintain this two-metre distance OPH recommends you wear a cloth mask.

Mapping of confirmed COVID-19 in Ottawa

We have begun to look at the data of confirmed cases in different ways. Today we launched a new map that reflects the rate of COVID-19 infection in residents by ward. This map, which will be updated every two weeks starting next week, can be found on our COVID-19 Epidemiology Update web page.

While it is clear that COVID-19 is present in every single community within Ottawa, this map provides a snapshot of COVID-19 across Ottawa, based on ward geography.

I want to stress that these maps cannot be used to identify “COVID-19 hot spots” in Ottawa. OPH is sharing this information in the interest of transparency. Areas with lower or higher rates are not more or less safe from COVID-19 transmission. The map is based on where residents with confirmed COVID-19 live and does not reflect where the disease was contracted. These maps are not intended to assist with service delivery planning, recovery efforts, or requests for additional services at a neighbourhood level.

OPH capacity to follow-up with cases and contacts

When OPH is notified of a confirmed case of COVID-19, OPH notifies the individual within 24 hours and begins the process of contact tracing.  In late April, OPH increased the number of staff conducting case and contact management, which has allowed OPH to achieve the 90 per cent target of reaching out to contacts within 24 hours from when they are identified and following up with 94 to 98 per cent percent of cases within 24 hours.

Through our case and contact management work, OPH is seeing that the number of close contacts per case is now often less than five, and are usually household contactsBefore physical distancing and self-isolation measures were introduced, OPH was notifying approximately 15 to 20 close contacts per case.

OPH will continue to work seven days a week to contact trace all infections to prevent further outbreaks in the community. This role will be especially important as we reopen, and additional opportunities to be in contact with individuals outside our household's increase.

We’ve made great progress in flattening the curve, thanks to everyone’s efforts. However, we still have community spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa; 17% of cases have no known exposure. As restrictions ease, our goal is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, to keep case levels manageable for our health care system to be able to care for everyone that needs the help. 

May 19, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Thank you to the people of Ottawa for celebrating your long weekend differently this year. It is great to see many people enjoying the outdoors while practicing physical distancing and limiting your contacts.

Reopening Ottawa

As part of Ontario’s Framework for Reopening the Province, many businesses are reopening today. While this will have positive impacts on the economy and hopefully mental health, there are now increased opportunities for interacting with others and a greater chance of the virus spreading. The vast majority of the population remains susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and the virus is still present in the community, with undetected and asymptomatic infections posing a challenge to containmentOur message remains the same: the fewer people you come into contact with the better to keep COVID-19 pinned down.

The recommended physical distancing measures don’t change with reopening. Dr. Theresa Tam has encouraged Canadians to only go out if you can “go out smart”.

Going out smart while living with COVID-19 in our community means:  

  • staying home if you are sick   

Gloves

In the last week, we have heard questions about the effectiveness of wearing gloves in public and whether it provides protection from COVID-19Ottawa Public Health (OPH) does not recommend wearing gloves. Wearing gloves can make you feel more protected from the virus than you actually areWhether or not you are wearing gloves, if you touch high-contact surfaces and then touch your faceyou are increasing the risk of getting COVID-19 and transmitting COVID-19 to others. If you choose to not follow this advice and wear gloves in public, visit the Frequently Asked Questions section on OttawaPublicHealth.ca/coronavirus to ensure you use them correctly. Remember that hand washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer is effective treduce the spread of germs and to prevent yourself and others from getting sick.

Self-screening tool for employees

As businesses and employers start considering re-opening, we have some guidance on our website that can help promote the health and safety of employees and residents who may be accessing services.  If possible, working remotely or from home is always a great way to respect physical distancing For employers, it is important to know that pre-employment testing is currently not required for employees to return to work. We do recommend employees use a self-screening tool. Self-screening in advance of each shift can help detect when someone should be assessed for testing and detect new infections more quickly. . Employees with symptoms of infection consistent with COVID19 should not go to work. Any Ottawa resident who has symptoms is recommended to be assessed for testing at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre or COVID-19 Care Clinics; the centres have the capacity for this increased testing.  

OPH’s website also links to the province’s recommended guidelines for businesses and workplaces on our website to help businesses reopen in a way that considers the health and safety of both employees and customers.

OPH capacity to follow-up with cases and contacts

OPH is following up with 94% of cases within 24 hoursWhen OPH is notified of a confirmed case of COVID-19, OPH notifies the individual within 24 hours and begins the process of contact tracing.

OPH reaches out to 100 per cent of contacts within the 24 hours from when they are identified. The length of time it takes to complete the contact tracing can vary as some individuals may be quite ill. The contact notification process can also vary in length, depending on the number of close contacts and length of time it takes to connect with them. Through our case and contact management work, OPH is seeing that the number of close contacts per case has decreased since physical distancing and self-isolation measures were introduced.

OPH has increased the number of staff conducting case and contract management. As of April 23, we have 55-115 employees working each day, seven days a week. In early March, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Communicable Disease team consisted of six full-time people.

COVID-19: Share your thoughts

Lastly, the first phase of the city-wide online engagement platform COVID-19: Share your thoughts is closing tomorrow, May 20. Please continue to contribute to this discussion to help the City and OPH to learn more about your thoughts, perceptions and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19. The information we receive from residents will help to ensure we develop a plan for the recovery period that aligns with the province and meets the needs and expectations of our community as much as possible. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, community input is always important 

During this next phase of gradual reopening, our approach must be flexible. We are learning new information about this novel virus on a regular basis. Ottawa Public Health will continue to rigorously track and work to contain the spread of the COVID-19 during the next phase.

 

May 15, 2020 – Joint statement from Dr. Vera Etches and Dr. Brent Moloughney

As we start our long weekend, we hope all residents can take some time to enjoy the weather and being outdoors. Please remember to continue to stay two metres away from people who do not live in your household, and if you are in public places where you cannot maintain this two metre distance, please wear a non-medical cloth mask if possible. As some businesses and public spaces reopen, there are increased opportunities for interacting with others, so there is a greater chance of the virus spreading. Our message remains the same: the less people you come into contact with, the better to keep COVID-19 pinned down.

We are still  in a pandemic situation. We trust that the people of Ottawa will continue to be vigilant to protect themselves and others. Although we are seeing some positive signs, such as the number of cases and deaths decreasing and hospitalization rates stabilizing, the virus has not left our community. We want to prevent a second wave of the virus, because if infections increase rapidly our healthcare system could be overwhelmed, more people will die, and businesses will potentially suffer from having to scale back again.   

The daily case numbers continue to show that there is community spread of the virus - cases that we cannot attribute to direct contact of a confirmed case or travel. For example we have had 1,753 cases, with about half (52%) acquired in institutions. But, as for the situation in the community, there were 20% from known close contacts and approximately 20% are community acquired cases where the individual could not identify the source of the virus. Contributing to this situation is that people can be asymptomatic and still spread the virus. With a lot of focus on long-term care homes, I believe people are starting to think that the virus is only occurring in those homes. This is not the case.  We are strongly encouraging everyone who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 to self-isolate and to present for assessment, even if the symptoms are mild, so we can track down the sources of infection in the community and break chains of transmission.

We do not know how long we will live with COVID-19 in the community, so we have to find healthy ways to cope in this new reality. Please stay home if you are ill, continue washing your hands, disinfecting shared surfaces, and wearing a non-medical mask when physical distancing is not possible.

Monitoring and Testing

As more businesses and public spaces reopen in Ottawa, all of us have a role to play – Ottawa Public Health, residents, our partners, and businesses. 

Some of the key roles for public health are to:

  • monitor the number of confirmed cases
  • Identify and follow-up with close contacts
  • identify sources of infection
  • control outbreaks in the community 

OPH announced on Wednesday that testing is now available to everyone with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. The province also followed with this announcement yesterday for all Ontarians. It is essential for us to identify people with COVID-19 infections and follow-up with them quickly to provide information and the importance of self-isolating and to identify their close contacts, so that they can also self-isolate. This management of cases and their contacts is one of the essential public health measures in place to help keep the virus pinned down as we begin to reopen Ottawa.

Again, we encourage anyone with symptoms to go for testing. You can now be assessed for testing at both the Assessment Centre and Care Clinics; they have the capacity for this increased testing. 

People have asked us why they should go for testing, especially if their symptoms are mild and they are managing okay at home. By getting tested, you are helping us find every case we can to stop the transmission; this information helps us to detect cases more quickly, understand what transmission is occurring in the community, investigate the source, and identify outbreaks earlier.    

Support for long term care homes   

COVID-19 Support Teams have continued outreach to long-term care homes (LTCH) identified by public health as “red,” or high risk. Homes flagged as “yellow” (i.e. moderate risk) are also being engaged for outreach.

Health-care teams in the Champlain Health Region successfully tested residents in all 60 local LTCH ahead of the provincial government’s May 15 deadline. Over the last three weeks more than 7,000 residents and 8,000 staff have been tested by teams comprised of hospital staff, public health, and paramedics.

Meeting this testing mandate reflects a tremendous effort by our regional partners. We would like to take the opportunity to thank the Brewer Assessment Centre staff, the Queensway Carleton Hospital, Hopital Montfort, and the Ottawa Paramedic Service for their commitment to supporting LTCH in the Champlain Region.

A number of partnerships between hospitals and LTCH have now been established to support staffing needs, and more continue to be established as assessments continue. Retirement homes are being included in our outreach model, and are being categorized with the same colour criteria as LTCH.

The “tier two” escalation process that has been established for regional support if a hospital is unable to adequately staff its partner long-term care home(s) is being tracked daily (see example below).

Gradual reopening and supports for businesses

The province has announced the plan to gradually reopen some businesses and public spaces. By slowly reopening, we will be better able to assess and monitor any increases in transmission of the virus within the community, and hopefully reduce the impact of any outbreaks.

OPH has links to the province’s recommended guidelines for businesses and workplaces on our website to help guide reopening in a way that considers the health and safety of both employees and customers. 

We will be monitoring the impact of the reopening of businesses and other easing of COVID-19 restrictions. As these changes increase our interactions with others, there is an increased risk of infection rates rising.  We have to stay vigilant and continue to practice physical distancing and limiting the total number of people that we come in contact with; these are what have flattened the curve and kept demands on hospital capacity manageable so far. Recommended physical distancing measures don’t change with reopening.

What residents can do to reduce transmission

Thank you to the people of Ottawa for your hard work and efforts to protect our community.  I’ve already spoken about what to do if you’re feeling ill. We also want everyone to continue your efforts to lower the chance that you will spread the virus unknowingly to someone else or that someone will give it to you.

When you are outside your home, we recommend that you protect yourself and others by:

  • maintaining physical distancing of 2 metres or 6 feet as much as possible
  • limiting close contact to those within your own household as much as possible
  • washing your hands regularly; and
  • wearing a non-medical mask – a cloth mask –  where physical distancing may not be possible, such as at the grocery store or on transit. 

Wearing a mask is new for many people, but we have already seen this happening in our community. When more people wear a mask, especially as more businesses and public spaces reopen, wearing masks is one element that allows a city to control spread of transmission, get control of the disease, and have more freedom. We know that some individuals who are infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and wearing a mask limits their ability to infect others.

If you are wearing a mask, you are caring for others. As Chair Egli said at yesterday’s town hall: “My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”

There is information on our website about where to get a non-medical mask and how to wear and wash a mask. We also launched a mask contest today on The Link Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health’s youth-focused Instagram), to encourage youth to embrace proper mask use and come up with fun and quirky names for masks. 

We also recently connected with residents through an online survey and the results give us increased confidence that the people of Ottawa are committed to continue to follow public heath guidance and protect each other. 94 percent of respondents said they will continue to practice physical distancing even as some restrictions are relaxed. And almost 90 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to wear a non-medical mask in public to be allowed to access more services.

Lastly, I would like to remind residents that we want to hear your thoughts, perceptions, and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19. You can share your feedback through our online platform at engage.ottawa.ca/covid19.

Thank you again for your community response to this pandemic. Enjoy the long weekend, just two metres apart!

May 13, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

As we continue to see the number of cases of COVID-19 in the community decline, I want to thank Ottawa residents for your efforts to follow public health messaging. I continue to be touched and proud to be a part of this community that has come together and shown such great support for each other during these unprecedented times.

Updated testing criteria

We have reached the next phase in the capacity for COVID19 testing in Ottawa. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) now recommends that anyone experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms should be tested. Those with symptoms can be assessed by a healthcare provider, and tested, if required, at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre or one of the COVID-19 Care Clinics. If wait times are high, priority will be given to essential workers and healthcare workers. Many primary care offices remain open to assess patients as well, so please call your family physician’s office to see if they can accommodate your visit first. As usual, the advice to stay home when ill is important to stop the spread of infections.  When traveling to access an assessment centre, care clinic or other healthcare setting, please use a non-medical mask or face covering and keep your hands clean.

If you are in distress (e.g. significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the assessment centre or a care clinic. Go to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1.

Testing in long term care homes and emergency childcare centers

As of yesterday, testing has been completed in Ottawa’s 28 long-term care homes and 76 staff have been tested in the three emergency childcare centers in Ottawa. ​At the moment, there is no plan to expand the surveillance testing to other settings, however OPH has proactively reached out to retirement homes that need support with our healthcare partners. And, supports to other congregate care settings, like group homes and shelters, continue to evolve.

COVID‐19 Support Teams have continued outreach to long‐term care homes identified by public health​ as ‘high risk’ and homes flagged as moderate risk are also being engaged. A number of partnerships between hospitals and long‐term care homes have been established to support staffing and other needs in the homes. These interventions are making a difference and more partnerships are established as assessments continue. ​

Looking ahead

As we adapt to living with COVID-19 and begin to reopen our city, we are working with residents, community and health care partners and all levels of government to ensure new and expanded measures are in place: more widespread testing of symptomatic people, technology to support case and contact management and universal face covering where physical distancing is not possible.

We have asked for your thoughts, perceptions and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19 through various feedback mechanisms including our COVID-19: Share your thoughts engagement platform. We are asking respondents what they are doing to make physical distancing more manageable and so far, have received many ideas on reopening the city. We have heard about mask use, expanded testing, and how businesses can operate while ensuring people maintain a safe distance from each other.

This information is helping to inform decision makers and we encourage all residents to continue sharing their experiences with us. Since launching the COVID-19 online engagement on May 1 we have heard from more than 1500 residents through our surveys and ideas tool. The first phase closes soon but there is still time to have your say: visit https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19.

​​The actions we have collectively taken to date - and will continue to take – will impact our future. Earlier in the year, I referenced several p-words related to what we were just learning was a pandemic - including preparedness, prevention and politeness. I have a few more words to add. Let’s continue to be proactive and pragmatic. We need to help people get back to work and we can work to prevent a resurgence with maintaining physical distancing and wearing non-medical masks or face coverings when within 2 metres of others. Thank you for your patience, your perseverance and your passion.

May 11, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Today marks the start of National Nursing Week, a time when nurses are recognized for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the health and well-being of us all. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) nurses play a vital role across the Ottawa community and in the life of every resident in the city. As respected members of our public health teams, nurses bring tremendous technical expertise to promote and protect our community's health and to prevent disease and injury across populations.

During this week, please join me in extending a thank you to the OPH nurses and all nurses across the healthcare sector for their tireless work now and every day.

Testing for COVID-19 infection

OPH continues to work with the Champlain Health Region Incident Command (CHRIC) to make COVID-19 testing available to the public, carry out testing to manage outbreaks and a surveillance exercise in long-term care homes and emergency child care centres. The Ontario-area laboratories appear to be managing the volume of testing created from encouraging people over 60 who have COVID-19-like symptoms to present to an Assessment Centre or Care Clinic for assessment.  As the surveillance exercise wraps up, more of the population will be encouraged to present to rule out COVID-19 if they have symptoms of the infection.

Gatherings of up to five people

There have been many questions in the last few days regarding gathering with people outside our households if the group size is less than five. While Ontario regulation allows gatherings of up to five people, OPH recommends keeping to activities with members of our households as much as possible, no matter what the size of the group. If we increase our interaction with others too much too soon, the level of infection has more chances to rise and we may risk overburdening our health care system – something we have avoided so far, thanks to the actions of people in Ottawa.  People may not realize they are infected and still pass on the COVID-19 virus.  There are still cases arising in the community where people infected were not in contact with a known case and did not have a history of travel to an affected area.

Provincial parks reopening across Ontario

Some good news for everyone to access more outdoor space for walking, biking, hiking, and more to stay active and healthy: as of today, the provincial government will begin reopening provincial parks and conservation reserves for day use with limited access. Before planning your trip, please visit www.ontarioparks.com/park-locator to check the status of your local provincial park. Also, it is important to remember to continue to practice physical distancing if you decide to use these areas. Lastly, masks can provide another level of protection to people around you if you are not able to maintain a 2-metre distance from them.

May 8, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Today, I ‘d like to take a moment to recognize the local health care worker who died as a result of COVID-19, while working to protect the health of others. The family, friends and colleagues of the worker are in our thoughts.  It is very difficult to lose a member of the health care community, and we are devasted by this loss on top of the loss of so many residents.

Long-term care homes

OPH continues to be concerned for our residents in long-term care during this pandemic. It is important for the population, and especially those with loved ones in long-term care homes, to know that most long-term care homes in Ottawa have no outbreaks and zero cases of COVID-19. For those homes that do have outbreaks, hospitals have been paired up with the homes facing the greatest pressure and the situation has improved in the operation of these homes.  We continue to see deaths from infections that started with transmission in the past. 

Managing risk while easing restrictions

This week marked the start of easing some of the COVID-related community restrictions, such as the reopening of some parks and businesses, and more announcements are being made by the province frequently. Although more public spaces are available, the community remains extremely vulnerable to a resurgence of disease. Most people are not immune to COVID-19 and the vast majority of the population remains susceptible. 

Therefore, we must continue to practice physical distancing as some measures are being relaxed – that message does not change.  And, I am encouraged that the motivation of the people of Ottawa to protect others around them will not change.

 We are in the fortunate position in that we are able to observe what other countries are doing with regards to relaxation of restrictions and we will continue to monitor how the situations develop as they reopen their businesses, schools and outdoor spaces.

We are in a time where people need to, and they want to, return to the activities they love. OPH recognizes the burden that COVID-19 has created and the impacts on the direct health of Ottawa’s residents. And, we are concerned about the indirect harms COVID19 has caused -- stress and anxiety, loss of employment, food insecurity, exposure to violence, delayed access to medical and dental services and reduced social support -- as these have big influences on health and wellbeing. 

OPH is working with provincial, municipal and community partners to support a progressive relaxing of restrictions that will minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community.  If we increase our interaction with others too much too soon, the level of infection will rise and we risk overburdening our health care system – something we have avoided so far, thanks to your actions.  We need to continue to keep this virus pinned down and at a manageable level within the community, and I would like to also see a further decline in hospitalizations to show we are reaching lower levels of virus in the community. 

What is important is that the actions of everyone in the city will be what determines our future.

What you have done so far, and what we do today will impact our future. The people of Ottawa have done such a good job at protecting themselves and others by following the physical distancing measures. Keeping two metres between each other is what will continue to protect us. We need to continue physical distancing moving forward as we resume other activities.

During this period, wearing of cloth masks in the community when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres will be important to reduce transmission from individuals that do not have symptoms and may not realize they are ill. As well as, continued community testing of people with COVID19-like symptoms will be essential, along with testing to control outbreaks. OPH will continue to work with health care sector partners to ensure testing capacity. 

Please continue to visit our website www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for updated content about where to purchase a mask, how to wear a mask and updated physical distancing information.

 May 6, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

The Ottawa community has come together and has shown such great support for each other in these hard times. This week is the annual Mental Health Week that recognizes the importance of mental health awareness in Canada. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, we need each other now more than ever. Being honest and clear about our needs, and how we are doing with regards to our mental health is of utmost importance, so that we can continue to support each other. There are resources available on Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) website that you can use to support family, friends, colleagues and yourself.

Update on transition to new case management system and epidemiology report

OPH is transitioning to a new case management and reporting system. In the interim, a condensed epidemiological report is posted on OPH’s website until the transition is complete. We appreciate the public’s patience with this process.

What is important to highlight regarding the data is that the level of hospitalizations is not in steep decline and that gives us an idea of infection in the community.   

This means that while we have seen success in planking the curve, we have to remember that the level of infection in the community is simply being kept at a manageable level. There continues to be a risk, that as we increase our interactions with others, that the level of infection in our community will rise quickly again. 

Testing in long term care homes

Surveillance testing for all residents and staff in 28 long-term care homes in Ottawa continues. Testing has occurred in 15 homes to-date, with testing in all homes to be completed on, or ahead of schedule, before May 15, 2020. This surveillance has included testing of approximately 1,880 residents and 1,826 staff with results still pending from multiple homes.

This undertaking has only been possible with the collaborative effort of many partners:

  • The long term care homes,  
  • Champlain Health Region Incident Command,  
  • The Ottawa Hospital,  
  • Queensway Carleton Hospital,  
  • Montfort Hospital,  
  • BORN Ontario,
  • City of Ottawa,  
  • Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association,  
  • The Public Health Ontario Laboratory-Ottawa,  
  • Ottawa Paramedic Services, and  
  • Ottawa Public Health team members.  

With all of the interest in testing, it is important to place surveillance testing in the overall context of controlling transmission of this disease. The purpose of this surveillance testing is to provide a snapshot of the current state of COVID-19 infections in long-term care homes particularly, since we know people can have mild or no symptoms and still be infectious. While the surveillance testing provides a picture of what's happening at one moment in time, infection, prevention, and control measures continue to be the most effective ways to decrease COVID-19 in long-term care homes. This includes employees avoiding working if symptomatic, ensuring all employees wear a medical grade face mask at all times while at work, and proper cohorting of people infected with COVID-19.

COVID-19: Share your thoughts online engagement

To date, our COVID-19 engagement survey has almost 8,500 visits to the platform, 1,236 users have participated in the survey, and we’ve received over 115 ideas on how to make physical distancing more manageable.

From what we’ve heard so far, the restrictions that have been especially difficult for residents include the closure of parks, reduced family and social connectedness, physical distancing requirements, and the closing of schools and childcare.

Residents are encouraged to visit engage.ottawa.ca/covid19 to complete the survey in English and French and provide feedback. The feedback received will help the City and OPH develop a recovery plan that meets the needs and expectations of our community, as much as possible.

Masks and Physical Distancing

There have been questions about masks over the past few days, and you may be seeing more people wearing material masks in the community.

Someone wearing a mask is sending a signal that they care for you.

Because of the risk of rising rates of infection again, OPH recommends that residents continue to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres from others, and to wear a non-medical mask when this distance cannot be maintained, such as on public transit or at a grocery store, to decrease transmission of COVID-19. For more information about non-medical masks, including how to make one or where to buy one, please visit our special mask website

We know COVID-19 is circulating in our community and that transmission can occur when a person is asymptomatic. Wearing a non-medical mask is not a replacement for physical distancing, hand washing, and monitoring your health.

We are seeing more people biking with their families on multiuse paths and joggers are seen alongside the river, this is good to see people outside and being active. City parks and beaches are partially reopening, and we hear that people want to spend time with family and friends outside their household.

OPH continues to advise that limiting activities to members of your own household remains important to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.  Physical distancing of at least two metres from non-household members needs to be maintained as we begin to open some public spaces.

Thank you to Ottawa residents for all the efforts you have put into date. You ARE making a difference. Physical distancing is working but we can’t let up. Limiting outings to essential trips only is working. We all need to continue to do these things, so that we can be confident in moving forward with relaxing current restrictions.

We will get through this time together. Stay connected, but stay physically apart. Stay healthy and Stay safe.

May 1, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

Today I am pleased to announce that Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa are launching the first phase of a city-wide engagement opportunity to hear from residents about our collective community response to COVID-19. We are looking to learn more about your thoughts, perceptions and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19.

This online engagement platform, called COVID-19: Share your thoughts, will allow us to learn how residents are making changes in their lives to protect themselves and loved ones, what their experience has been receiving and understanding information, what kinds of supports residents have accessed, ideas to maintain physical distancing into the future and what is perhaps much needed right now – good news stories.

The City and OPH are currently exploring how we can safely reopen the city in a gradual, phased approach while aligning with the Province of Ontario’s framework for reopening the province, and we must include public feedback.

The information we receive from residents will help to ensure we develop a plan for the post-peak period that aligns with the province and meets the needs and expectations of our community as much as possible.  OPH is also working with stakeholders, such as the Mayor’s office and City leadership, City task forces, health system partners, the NCC and others, to interpret and apply the anticipated provincial guidelines within Ottawa.

Community and client engagement is one of the transformational initiatives in OPH’s strategic plan. Engagement is a process to work with our community, not just for our community, and ensures the decisions we make, and the work that we do, is rooted in the voices of clients and partners.

I encourage everyone to visit https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19 or https://participons.ottawa.ca/covid19 to participate in English and French. Please check back regularly as we will update this page to seek ongoing feedback as we continue to navigate next steps.

Aging Well in Ottawa

One other way that OPH regularly engages with our residents is through Facebook. This week we launched another moderated Facebook page, called Aging Well in Ottawa for residents 55 years of age and older and their caregivers. This page has had a lot of interest in its first week.  Ottawa Public Health staff will be online from 9 am to 3 pm daily (Monday to Friday) to discuss timely health topics, address questions and support residents to connect with one another. Please join us online for this exciting new initiative.

Updated testing criteria

OPH is now recommending that any residents over 60 years of age experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, go for assessment.  The full list of who is eligible for testing is available on our website.  You can get tested at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care Clinic.

If you are in distress (e.g. significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

New case management system and epidemiology report

OPH is transitioning to a new case management and reporting system called the COVID-19 Ottawa Database. This transition will position OPH to better manage COVID-19 case volumes, facilitate remote work options for the case management team and continue to uphold provincial reporting obligations.

To support the transition, OPH is currently conducting quality assurance to validate the data in the new system. In the interim, a snapshot report will be posted until the transition is complete, likely early next week. 

April 29, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

COVID-19 Cases

As of 4 pm on April 28, 2020, OPH is investigating 1,297 lab-confirmed cases, 76 newly reported since yesterday. Over the last few days, we have been seeing these larger increases in the number of cases than previous weeks. We anticipated this increase as more people are eligible for testing and therefore getting tested and due to the surveillance exercise that took place last weekend in which all staff and residents of nine long-term care homes were tested.

Sadly, we are reporting five new deaths, all in long-term care residents, since our last report yesterday. Of the 76 deceased total, 69 (91 per cent) were aged 65 years or older, six were 45-64 years old and one was 20 to 44 years old; 39 males and 37 females.

It is important to note that our reporting does not reflect the number of cases or deaths in a single day; but rather reflects the number of new cases since the last report which can include data from a range of days.  For example, the 76 cases reported today were from specimens collected April 24-27 and the 5 deaths reported today also occurred April 24-27.

The number of reported confirmed cases is always just a percentage of the number of actual infections (symptomatic and symptomatic) in our community because testing capacity has only been extended to priority groups to date. Therefore, it is important that we all continue to keep physical distance from people outside of our households.  We are working with our health care partners to implement more testing for more of the population and continue our contact tracing to better understand the spread of the virus in our community.

The majority of new confirmed cases have been in healthcare institutional outbreaks, but there continues to be community transmission (Figure 3).  Our reported data may differ from other numbers published elsewhere, such as care homes themselves, due to data entry lag, different reporting sources, or download times. Care homes get the information of residents’ results first and take appropriate measures to isolate and care for their residents and staff.

National Immunization Awareness Week

This week is National Immunization Awareness Week, an annual event held at the end of April to recognize the importance of immunization in Canada.

Prevention is at the heart of what we do at Ottawa Public Health, and this global pandemic is a terrible reminder of how a virus can impact our lives when there is no vaccine.  Vaccines are a proven way to protect people and communities against very harmful and serious diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus and more. As researchers and scientists across the world continue to search for a vaccine against COVID19, I want to remind residents of the importance of maintaining physical distancing and also keeping up with routine immunizations for yourselves and your loved ones.

There are two great initiatives happening this week regarding immunizations: 

  1. The Kids Comes First Health Team (CHEO, OPH, community pediatricians and CANImmunize) has opened a Children’s Immunization Clinic for infants and children under two (2) years of age in the Ottawa region who are unable to get their routine series of immunizations due to COVID-19 closures. 
  2. There will be a moderated discussion on our Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page with a Public Health Nurse about immunization this Friday (May 1).   

New Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook Page 

Facebook has been a valuable platform for Ottawa Public Health to engage with families and residents over the past years. To build on this success, Ottawa Public Health launched a new Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook page this week for residents 55 years of age and older and their caregivers. An Ottawa Public Health staff will be online from 9 am to 3 pm daily (Monday to Friday) and residents connect with one another. Please join us online for this exciting new initiative.

Reporting of data

Starting tomorrow, Ottawa Public Health will be transitioning to a new case management and reporting system. This new web-based secure system allows our team to more quickly and easily document each individual case investigation and share data with the provincial Ministry of Health. Due to the technicalities of this transition, there will be no epidemiology report published on our website on Thursday, April 30. No data will be missing or lost; the information from April 30 will be included in the May 1 report.

April 27, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Provincial announcement

Today the Ontario premier unveiled the province’s framework for gradually re-opening the economy.

We will review the framework with our municipal and health care system partners and provide more information on what this means in Ottawa in the coming days.

Testing in long-term care homes

This past weekend, surveillance testing began in nine long-term care homes in Ottawa.

This exercise was completed as part of the provincial directive announced last week to implement surveillance testing at long-term care homes.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service deserves a big thanks for this weekend’s collaborative effort to implement the pilot surveillance testing of long-term care home staff and residents.  The task of testing over 1700 residents and healthcare workers could not have been completed without 26 Ottawa paramedics willing to help with taking swabs.

I also want to thank our partners from the Champlain Health Region Incident Command and the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association for their efforts this weekend, working alongside Ottawa Public Health team members, who also have my thanks for continuing strenuous efforts to control COVID-19 in our community.

This kind of collaboration with City, healthcare and public health workers makes me proud of the response in our area and is the way we will continue to work with an ongoing focus on supports for long-term care homes.

We know that asymptomatic transmission can occur, and we can expect an increase in the number of detected cases in health care workers and residents as a result of this surveillance exercise. The purpose of this surveillance testing is to better understand the current state of COVID-19 infections in long-term care homes.

While testing is important to provide a picture of what's happening at one moment in time, infection, prevention and control measures, including wearing a medical grade face mask at all times while at work, and proper cohorting of people infected with COVID-19, continue to be the most effective ways to decrease COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

Physical activity while physically distancing

Lastly, with the weather warming up, many more people will be taking advantage of the outdoors for exercise, which is encouraged.  Physical activity and getting fresh air are important for our overall physical and mental wellness; I advise everyone who can go outside, to do so, in a safe way.

It is important to take care of our mental and physical health. Our neighbourhood sidewalks, streets, and multiuse paths are all still available to get outside and get moving. For most people, it is okay to go out for a walk, run or ride your bike, as long as you can continue to practice physical distancing.

Others may need to stay in their homes for their own safety and/or the safety of the community, like if you’ve recently returned from outside Canada, if you’ve come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 – even if they are mild. Ottawa Public Health’s website has new information on staying safe while being physically active in our neighborhoods as well as questions to consider before going outside.  Visit our website for information to stay safe when doing these activities.

Thank you to our entire community for all the actions taken – these actions matter. Take the time to go outside and enjoy the warmer weather while staying safe.

April 23, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

I am proud of what the people of Ottawa have done to protect our community since the start of the COIVD-19 pandemic. So many people have been willing to protect others, care for others, and have stepped up to help others. This good will and hard work are appreciated, and will be needed as we continue to learn to live with COVID-19. I know I can trust Ottawa residents to continue doing what is needed to prevent an unmanageable increase in infections in our community into the future.

Todays’ update focuses on some of the work that Ottawa Public Health is doing with different sectors, such as businesses, as we plan to safely move towards a way to live and work that is more sustainable in the long term, when the time is right. 

OPH is working with the City’s Senior Leadership Team, members of the business community, various community services partners, and many other stakeholder groups to figure out the best way to gradually and safely move forward with COVID-19 in our community, following direction from the province of Ontario, in coordination with the federal government. We must ensure we continue to protect those people that are most vulnerable, such as residents in long-term care and retirement homes. 

Relaxing of restrictions will take time – and we are not quite there yet. Protecting people has been the priority and will continue to be a priority. Most people are not immune to COVID-19. So, when we begin to relax measures and increase our interactions with other people, we expect there will be an increase in transmission of the virus. COVID-19 will be a part of our lives and how we live into the foreseeable future. We need to find a balance of risks and benefits of easing restrictions, including identifying what we can do to mitigate risks. 

Members of the business community want to help ensure that the opening up of economic activity is done safely, so that businesses do not need to face closing a second time. Businesses are thinking about ways to operate differently to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID-19. For example, having more people working from home, changing the set-up in some offices and businesses, and considering ways for employees and customers to wear masks and have easy access to wash their hands will all help decrease COVID-19 transmission. The desire to move ahead carefully is consistent with the direction of the province. The Premier has said that any changes will be implemented in a phased approach. There will not be one date for everything to change and return to normal.   

I appreciate the engagement with partners, stakeholders, and residents. We will work together as a community to inform how we will learn to live with COVID-19 in the coming months.

Lastly, a reminder during current religious holidays, that physical distancing measures are still needed and the provincial emergency order in place requires people gather in groups of less than 6. I encourage you to find new ways to celebrate virtually with family and friends and to limit your contact to members of your own household as much as possible. 

April 21, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

COVID-19 peak in Ontario vs Ottawa

Yesterday, the province of Ontario released updated modelling which shows the enhanced public health measures, including staying home and practicing physical distancing, are working to contain the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. However, the Premier, Minister of Health and Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, agree these measures must remain in place to continue reducing the number of cases and deaths.

While this is strongly encouraging, it is too soon to say that we are currently peaking here in Ottawa. We are waiting for more evidence to show that COVID-19 is slowing down in our community, particularly based on the number of hospitalizations, which follow the rate of infection by about a week. While hospitalizations have stabilized over the last week, we want to see this number start to go down before we can confidently say COVID-19 has peaked in Ottawa. Therefore, I am asking residents to continue practicing physical distancing and to stay home except for essential trips, like for groceries and physical activity. What we’re doing is working but now is not the time to relax these measures and undo the hard-won progress we have made together.

People living in long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings still need the protection provided by the community doing its part.  Healthcare workers still do not have as much personal protective equipment as they will need into the future.  And, the province is still working on building a surveillance system and testing strategy essential for monitoring the levels of infection in our community that could rise with relaxing restrictions.

For the latest epidemiological data for Ottawa, visit our website.

Masks

I know there has been evolving messaging about whether or not to wear a mask. If you are coughing or sneezing, wear a non-medical mask to protect people around you from getting sick. This is very important if you go to an appointment, clinic or a hospital. Do not go to other public places when you are sick, even if you are wearing a mask.

If you are not sick or not displaying symptoms and are going to a public place (e.g., grocery store or pharmacy) wearing homemade masks or  face coverings may offer some additional protection to those around you where maintaining physical distancing is difficult.

Additionally, I’d like to remind residents that medical masks and N95 respirators should not be worn by healthy community members since they need to be protected for healthcare workers

For more information on masks, please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks.

Long-term care and retirement home outbreaks

I continue to express my condolences to those who are impacted by the outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes be it staff, residents or family members.

I am encouraged by the way the government has enabled staffing levels to be addressed to ensure homes have enough support. OPH continues to work with healthcare partners to ensure long-term care and retirement homes are a top priority for protection.

I get a lot of questions about testing in long-term care and retirement homes. When there is an outbreak in a home or congregate setting, all healthcare workers are tested regardless of whether they have symptoms. Close contacts of a positive case are also tested regardless of symptoms. And, testing is not the solution because regardless of the result, someone could be in the early stages of an infection or go on to become infected.   What is absolutely vital is using proper personal protective equipment, keeping cases isolated and consistently incorporating proper infection prevention and control measures. This is what will protect people the most and this is also the focus of OPH and our healthcare partners.

Case contacting and follow up

I’d like to address how Ottawa Public Health investigates and follows up with each positive case of COVID-19. OPH has a mandate to follow up with all persons who test positive for COVID-19 as well as their close contacts. Each case is monitored on a daily basis, meaning my team will reach out to each positive case and their close contacts every day for 14 days to see how each person is doing, provide information and address questions and concerns. The reason it is so important to check in daily is so OPH can ensure cases and close contacts are following proper home isolation guidelines and to provide clear direction on what each individual should be doing to protect themselves and others. Additionally, this is a new disease so daily follow up is imperative in recording information on how the disease is progressing.

I’d like to acknowledge my case management team who has undertaken this crucial undertaking. Consistent case follow up is one of the many things OPH is doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Thank you

Thank you for your collaboration in practicing physical distancing and for finding new and innovative ways of supporting each other including by providing donations and making homemade masks.  This is very important work that we encourage volunteers continue. 

I want to thank the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) for their support during this crisis to significantly enhance our capacity with over 100 nurses for triaging, test results, case management and contact tracing.  Our City of Ottawa partners deserve recognition and thanks. Other City departments have been supporting our efforts in various ways, including the redeployment of resources to OPH and support of the Human Needs Task Force and the Business Task Force, among other things. Thanks also to  our healthcare system partners for their continued efforts to increase capacity, share resources, facilitate patient flow, and so many other aspects of this response. Lastly, I want to thank the media for their continued work in ensuring residents have accurate, timely information. 

For an in-depth review of OPH’s work on the COVID-19 response to date, you can watch yesterday’s Board of Health meeting on YouTube. Residents can also tune in to tomorrow’s City Council meeting on YouTube or on Rogers TV.

April 21, 2020 - Joint message from Ottawa’s medical chiefs of staff 
Ottawa area hospitals: If you need care, please come to or connect with your hospital

OTTAWA – April 21, 2020 - As the community continues to follow physical distancing recommendations from Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa area hospitals want to remind the public to continue to come to hospital if they think they have a serious health concern. We appreciate that the public is taking the recommendations to stay home so seriously, but it should not come at the cost of one’s health or safety. If you are in need of urgent medical attention, please go to your nearest Emergency Department or call 911 right away.

Hospital staff are taking every necessary precaution to ensure the health and safety of our patients, caregivers, staff, and community. Our staff and medical staff are ready and able to care for you in the safest way possible.

There are a number of clinical programs that continue to run and care for patients in need, in person and virtually.

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute has maintained capacity to provide care for all cardiac emergencies. Please don’t ignore your heart symptoms. A delay in seeking care could have a lasting impact on the outcome of your treatment. It is important for all patients to keep in touch with their family doctor, and other specialists (like cardiologists) who manage their care. In select cases, a virtual or telephone consultation with one of our cardiologists may be appropriate.

While we are all encouraged to stay home whenever possible, we understand that for some, home is not always a safe place. The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program, run out of the Civic Campus Emergency Department, is still here to care for patients who have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence. The program is offering virtual follow-up clinics, to provide access to care for those unable to come to the hospital. There are also sexual assault programs run out of CHEO and Cornwall Community Hospital. Please contact the one closest to you.

As the regional stroke centre, The Ottawa Hospital also wants to remind the public not to ignore the symptoms of a stroke at the first onset. Time is of the essence when treating any condition, especially a stroke. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you think you might be experiencing a stroke.

We also know that increased stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic can bring or worsen mental health and substance use issues. If you are struggling, please reach out for help. As many of you are aware, The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre has opened an urgent access mental health clinic to help individuals who are at risk of declining mental health or hospitalization. The C-PROMPT clinic is available with a referral from your primary care provider. CHEO offers mental health support for any children or youth in need.

While there are changes to some of the substance use services in our community, many programs are still offering services—but changing the way they are offered, such as offering virtual counselling. The Royal’s Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders is open and accepting new clients. This includes a Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic that is providing services virtually during the pandemic. To access these substance use services at The Royal, call 613-722-6521 ext. 6508.    

At CHEO, many clinics are connecting virtually with children and youth who have existing relationships with the care teams there. However, CHEO has seen a 70 per cent drop in new cases of diabetes in the last 30 days, and those children and youth who have gone to the Emergency Department are sicker than is expected normally. And while CHEO unfortunately continues to see new cases of childhood cancer, some of these children and youth are only coming in to be seen after the symptoms have been around for longer than they would usually see.

The COVID-19 Care Clinics in the west and east ends continue to provide treatment for individuals who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory illness requiring a medical assessment, such as coughs, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. The clinic in the west end is operated by Queensway Carleton Hospital staff, while the clinic in the east end is operated by Hôpital Montfort – both with the help of community primary care physicians and pediatricians.

  • Care Clinic - west end: D. A. Moodie Intermediate School in Bells Corners, open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Care Clinic - east end: 1485 Heron Road, open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Media contacts:

Bruyère:

Jesse Cressman Dickinson, jcressmandickinson@bruyere.org

CHEO:

Paddy Moore, pmoore@cheo.on.ca

Montfort:

Martin Sauvé, martinsauve@montfort.on.ca

Queensway Carleton Hospital:

D.G. Stringer, dgstringer@gmail.com

The Ottawa Hospital:

Michaela Schreiter, mschreiter@toh.ca

The Royal:

Karen Monaghan, karen.monaghan@theroyal.ca

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute:

Leigh B. Morris, lmorris@ottawaheart.ca

 April 17, 2020 – Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches

April 17, 2020 – Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Ottawayou are proving to be a committed and resilient city, and I appreciate all of the feedback I have been receiving about considerations for relaxing some measures, when it is time, in coordination with the provincial and federal governments. Maintaining physical distancing and handling the uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented in our lives. How we collectively work through these current challenges, and how we bounce back from this adversity in a positive way, will continue to build our strength as a community.

There would be more cases of COVID-19 in our community had everyone not done their part over the past month. Please keep up this hard work over the next stretch of timeThank you again for all the actions you are taking as a community – these actions are saving lives.

Cases and new deaths

As of 4 pm on April 16, 2020, OPH is investigating 728 lab-confirmed cases (50 newly reported since yesterday).An increase in testing and possibly the expanded testing recommendations might be contributing in part to the increase in newly-identified cases.    

Of great concern and with sadness is the increase of seven new deaths since yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths in Ottawa to 21.

This number is the largest recorded number of deaths in Ottawa in one day since the beginning of this emergency response. All seven deaths are related to outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes. Fifty-seven percent (12/21) of all deaths due to COVID-19 in Ottawa are related to outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes.

My thoughts are with the family members, friends, and caregivers of the people who have died. OPH continues to work with health care partners to ensure long-term care and retirement homes are a top priority for protection.

It is encouraging that 42 per cent of confirmed cases have been resolved. Hospitalizations (37) and ICU admissions (13) are down slightly.

A further breakdown of epidemiological data can be found on our website.

Consideration for reducing physical distancing measures

Our collective actions will determine when we can begin to relax some of the measures. We can begin to consider changes when we see the rate of new cases and hospitalizations slow down, and we know our hospitals and health care system are ready and have capacity to meet the demandKeeping two metres apart really makes a difference, and the more that we keep up with this physical distancing, the sooner we’ll be able to relax restrictions in a careful wayMany people have been sharing their ideas about what is most important to start up first. For example, increasing access to more outdoor spaces to have adequate space for walking, biking, and playing has been a common idea from residents. 

One strategy used in communities that have reduced restrictions is the use of masks and face coverings in public when the two-metre distance cannot be maintained. There is community transmission here in Ottawa  25 per cent of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 are currently not linked to travel or close contact with a confirmed case.

We also know that there is some asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19; these individuals may not yet be self-isolatingWearing a homemade mask provides an added layer of protection for the people you may come into contact with when you’re out in the community.

Thank you again for all that you are doing to protect yourselves, friends, family, and others in our community.

April 16, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health 

Expanded testing criteria

The Province has again increased the categories of people eligible for testing:

  • Some asymptomatic residents and staff in long-term care and retirement homes experiencing an outbreak;
  • People experiencing at least one common symptom, and certain less common COVID-19 symptoms have also been added;
  • People and workers in congregate settings;
  • First responders;
  • Caregivers;
  • People with frequent health care contact; and
  • People living in remote, isolated, rural or Indigenous communities.

These expanded criteria will allow us to test more people and get a better sense of the potential scope of infection in our community. This is important into the future to enable more targeted strategies and the eventual relaxation of restrictions. I encourage everyone that meets these criteria testing to get tested. We are starting to see the testing numbers increase again.

Managing mental health

We know that this situation is taking a toll on people’s mental health. This was a common concern shared on Twitter this morning when I asked for residents’ ideas on how we can sustain physical distancing measures a bit longer.  Everyone will experience this situation in their own way. It is completely natural to feel stress and concern during these times and so it is important to practice positive coping strategies.

Our team has added various resources on the Ottawa Public Health website, including a video on maintaining your mental health and a list of telephone, text or chat services. These may be helpful to you. However, if you are in crisis, please contact the Distress Centre at 613-238-3311. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Also, in response to the COVID-19 situation, the Walk-in Counselling Clinic is offering phone and video counselling services.

Wearing face coverings and masks

A lot of people have been asking if they should be wearing face coverings or masks when they do leave their home and go out into the community; this was also a common theme on the Twitter discussion about how we can sustain physical distancing. We know that there is some asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19; so if you cannot maintain physical distancing, wearing a mask helps to protect people you may come into contact with when you’re out in the community. It provides an added layer of protection.

Continue physical distancing

We continue to ask people to limit trips outside the home to essential needs such as for groceries, medicine or daily physical activity and to limit close contacts to members of their household. Thank you to the many residents who have provided ideas on Twitter about how we can be resilient in this difficult time; the top themes shared were about consideration for how our outdoor spaces can be used and for all to continue to spread love and kindness in different ways. I will take these suggestions into the planning process for when we are able to safely relax restrictions.

Our efforts are working. We are seeing signs of hope, but we need to keep practicing physical distancing in order to get to the other side of the curve.

Daily case numbers

Details about the daily case numbers are updated on our website daily. 

Lastly, I want to again thank the media for working diligently to keep residents informed about the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa. 

 April 16, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore 

The Province of Ontario is taking important steps to protect some of the most vulnerable residents in our community - the elderly and others with medical needs who live in long-term care facilities in Ontario. The safety of those most vulnerable to COVID-19 is of utmost importance. Hospitals in the region are in compliance with this new directive and are in the process of actioning the various recommendations. Given the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic and response, Champlain Health Region Incident Command will be operationalizing the directive in the coming days and we will be addressing the nuances of this roll out.

We are working together as a region to build capacity across the system for patients. Last week, we put processes in place to streamline transfers of COVID-19-positive patients requiring acute or critical care from smaller hospitals in the region to a select number of larger hospitals. This ensures that patients whose care needs cannot be met at their local hospitals will be moved to a higher-level care in a coordinated manner to balance capacity across our acute care centres. This process is running smoothly and has been used to facilitate several transfers. In addition, we are beginning to transfer patients with alternate level of care to regional hospitals to provide care in a setting that matches their needs.

By applying this regional approach to patient flow, we’ll be able to ensure that we’re continuing to provide the best possible care for our most vulnerable patients.

COVID-19 Care Clinics in the west and east ends continue to provide treatment for individuals who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory illness requiring a medical assessment, such as coughs, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. The clinic in the west end is operated by the Queensway Carleton Hospital, while the clinic in the east end is operated by Hôpital Montfort – both with the help of community primary care physicians and pediatricians. To date the clinics have provided care for nearly 500 patients.

I have an update on the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena: the Assessment Centre has new operating hours, and will now be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – seven days a week. Over the last month, the Assessment Centre has tracked patients arriving for care and the changes to the hours reflect that need for assessment. The care team has also been very successful in streamlining the process, allowing us to test more patients per hour than when we started. Today was another busy day at the Assessment Centre and we are grateful to the media for spreading the word on the new testing criteria. 

April 15, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health 
Today marks exactly one month since we first recommended that people in Ottawa reduce their contact with others to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This has required a major change in all of our lives. We have had to adapt our ways of getting support, like how we gather with friends and family. I thank residents for doing their part and give you credit for the success we are seeing in maintaining a level of infection that is manageable for our healthcare system to ensure that our loved ones can receive the care they need.   

This isn’t easy and we are not yet on the other side of the curve. We will keep communicating with the public to help people understand what is being asked of them.

Physical distancing

There is still a provincial order in place to limit gatherings to five people or less. The advice is still to stay home unless going out for essential reasons like groceries or prescriptions, to seek healthcare, help someone in need, or for daily physical activity.   

We keep getting questions from residents and community groups about what physical distancing means. Can you talk with your neighbour over the fence or from a distance? Yes, if you are maintaining a two-metre distance between each other, and you are taking care to avoid people gathering in ways that could lead to more risk. 

People are worried when they see others gathering in parking lots and driveways. Physical distancing is important because we know that some people may not have symptoms yet because they are in the early stages of infection. These individuals can spread the virus to others if physical distancing is not maintained.

Resources for residents

I want to acknowledge that this situation is difficult. These are stressful, uncertain and unprecedented times. We understand and recognize that many people are feeling isolated or lonely, even fearful. Many are anxious about the future, worried about falling behind in school, or wondering about how they’re going to pay the bills if their hours have been cut at work or they’ve been laid off from their jobs. The Ottawa Distress Centre is available for anyone who needs to talk to someone and to seek help.

Of course, people want to connect with others during these difficult times. You want to be able to talk to your best friend, lean on your family, connect with your neighbours.  

We’re asking that you use your best judgement and consider the safest options for doing so. Take advantage of technology for connecting with friends and family and try, as much as possible, to limit your in-person contacts to members of your household.  

People are also asking about whether or not they should go outside for exercise. Physical activity and getting fresh air are important for our overall physical and mental wellbeing.  Unless you have been asked to self-isolate under the Quarantine Act, you can still go for a walk, run or ride your bike in your neighbourhood, on shared paths and through your local park.  

Ottawa Public Health has also added new resources on staying active during this time, as well as a video on maintaining your mental health, to our website.

For those needing financial support to get through this crisis, the COVID-19 page on the City of Ottawa website has a list of resources available from all levels of government.  

Long-term care and retirement homes

I’d also like to address the approach to protecting people in long-term care and retirement homes. Ottawa Public Health shares the concerns expressed by the community and by other levels of government about the importance of protecting this vulnerable population.  

All long-term care facilities and seniors’ residences operating in the City of Ottawa receive regular communications and guidance from OPH’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) team and are familiar with outbreak management protocols and COVID19-testing guidelines. For some time now, OPH has been instructing all retirement and long-term care homes with even one positive or presumptive case to take all the measures required to protect people in a respiratory outbreak situation. New provincial testing guidelines issued last week mean that we are now expanding COVID-19 testing in these homes to include asymptomatic residents and healthcare workers, whereas previous provincial direction was to only test people who were symptomatic. For all homes, the threshold for testing has been lowered, so that now residents will be tested even if they do not have a fever and a cough if there are other signs of a change in the person's health that could be related to a COVID19 infection. Everyone being admitted to a home will be tested, even if they do not have symptoms of infection. 

Other supports to long-term care homes and retirement homes are being increased through partnership with other healthcare providers – like faster access to personal protective equipment and assistance with people who can do testing. 

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, Ottawa Public Health is investigating 643 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community and 16 ongoing outbreaks in institutions. That’s 24 new cases since yesterday. We now have 244 resolved cases. 

There are currently 41 people in hospital and 18 of them are in ICU. 

Sadly, 13 people have died. Of these individuals, 11 were over the age of 65 years and two were between 45-64 years old, seven males and six females. 

Thank you again for all the actions you are taking as a community – these actions matter. By staying home you are keeping yourself, loved ones, and the community safer and supporting healthcare workers and other essential services providers to do their part to save lives.

April 15, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore
When testing for COVID-19, the region follows the provincial guidance around prioritizing testing for the following populations with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing:
  • Health care workers (HCW) and staff who work in health-care facilities
  • Residents and staff in long-term care facilities, retirement homes, and other institutional settings (e.g., correctional facilities, homeless shelters)
  • Hospitalized patients admitted with respiratory symptoms (new or exacerbated)
  • Members of remote, isolated, rural, and/or indigenous communities

As a reminder, Ottawa Public Health is recommending that health care workers with any of the

following symptoms be tested, regardless of exposure or travel history:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • new or worsening cough
  • sputum production
  • new or worsening shortness of breath
  • rhinorrhea (runny nose)

Testing is necessary for health care workers even with mild respiratory symptoms, as they are on the frontlines in treating patients with COVID-19, and should be closely monitored.

If you are sick, and wondering whether you should go to the Care Clinics, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, or the Emergency Department, here is some information that might help.

  • Care Clinics: For anyone with mild to moderate symptoms of febrile respiratory illness (cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat).
  • COVID-19 Assessment Centre: For anyone seeking to get tested for COVID-19, and who meets the criteria for testing, defined by OPH.
  • Emergency Department: For all medical emergencies and anyone in need of immediate medical attention.

Assessment Centres in Eastern Ontario:

  • Almonte COVID-19 Assessment Centre
    • By appointment only – 1-800-660-5853 ext. 2499
    • Almonte General Hospital – 75 Spring Street, Almonte, ON
  • Brockville COVID-19 Assessment Centre:
    • Open seven days a week – 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
    • Memorial Centre – 100 Magedoma Boulevard, Brockville, ON
  • Casselman COVID-19 Assessment Centre (drive-through only)
    • Open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • 872 Principale Street, Casselman, ON
  • Cornwall COVID-19 Assessment Centre
    • By appointment only (please call 613-935-7762 to book)
    • 850 McConnell Avenue, Cornwall, ON
  • Hawkesbury COVID-19 Assessment Centre
    • Open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • 750 Laurier Street, Hawkesbury, ON
  • Ottawa COVID-19 Assessment Centre
    • Open 7 days a week – 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Brewer Arena – 151 Brewer Way, Ottawa, ON
  • Perth and Smiths Falls Assessment Centre
    • By appointment only – open 7 days a week – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Patients will drive up to the Main Entrance and remain in their vehicle while an in-vehicle assessment is completed.
    • Smiths Falls Hospital Site - 60 Cornelia Street West, Smiths Falls, ON
  • Renfrew County Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre
    • Call: 1-844-727-6404
  • Rockland COVID-19 Assessment Centre
    • Open Monday to Saturday, by appointment only (please call 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120 for a referral)
    • Clarence-Rockland Family Health Team Office
    • 2741 Chamberland Street, Rockland, ON
  • Winchester COVID-19 Assessment Centre
    • Open Monday to Friday noon to 6 p.m.
    • Lions Club Hall
    • 515 Albert Street, Winchester, ON

As always, if you are in need of urgent medical attention, please go to your nearest Emergency Department, or call 9-1-1. We are ready and able to help anyone in need.  

April 14, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney, Associate Medical Officer of Health (updated April 16, 2020 from a previous version)

Thank you to all Ottawa residents for your continued diligence in practicing physical distancing over this past holiday weekend. Many of you cancelled family gatherings, opting instead to connect via telephone or video chats. We know this is not easy, but it is vitally important in our continued efforts as a community to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

We have heard that people continue to seek clarity about what is acceptable within physical distancing. Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. Overall this means limiting your contacts to members of your household as much as possible and avoiding all non-essential trips in the community. If you are in your driveway, on your front porch or out for a walk and want to connect with your neighbours, we encourage you to do this as long as you can maintain a 2 metre distance. These measures, along with proper hand hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette, are the best way to slow the spread of illness in our community.

Update on testing

Since last week, we have received clarification from the Ontario Ministry of Health with respect to expanded testing criteria for residents and staff of long-term care and retirement homes, for hospital inpatients, as well as for front-line workers. In addition, local laboratories are working hard to increase their capacity for analyzing COVID-19 test swabs and for delivering timely test results.

As Dr. Etches had previously mentioned, continuing to expand access to testing is important to help enable more targeted strategies and the eventual gradual relaxation of current restrictions in the future.

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, Ottawa Public Health is investigating 619 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community and 15 ongoing outbreaks in institutions. Two institutional outbreaks having been resolved. That’s 33 new confirmed cases since yesterday. We also now have 217 resolved cases.

There are currently 42 people in hospital and 16 of them are in intensive care units (ICU)Sadly, 12 people have died. Of these individuals, 11 were over the age of 65 years and one was 45-64 years old, seven males and five females.

EKOS survey

Last week at Council, Dr. Etches referenced an EKOS survey on Ottawa residents’ views about COVID-19. Details of the survey – and survey results, will be posted to our website later today. This survey showed that 84 per cent of Ottawa residents have changed their social behavior in response to COVID-19 by only socializing using remote connections. These actions make a difference in planking the curve and we thank these residents for following public health guidance on physical distancing.

Unsafe at Home Ottawa

We know that for some, home is not a safe place. Crime Prevention Ottawa (CPO), the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), Interval House of Ottawa and the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre have teamed up to launch a new initiative called “Unsafe at Home Ottawa” -  a text and online chat tool that allows victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse to get help and support.

The service was created for those who may find it impossible to reach out by calling a crisis line when trapped at home with their abuser due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing measures.

Ottawa Public Health will be promoting these new resources through our social media platforms so please look for those Tweets and Facebook posts and help us amplify these messages.

Thank you again for all the actions you are taking as a community – these actions matter. There would be more cases of COVID-19 in our community had everyone not done their part over the past month.

We continue to encourage residents to visit www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for the latest updates and for guidance on how they can protect themselves and their family.

April 14, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital 

With both Care Clinics now open, in the East and West ends of the city, pressure continues to be relieved from local Emergency Departments to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, over 400 people have visited the Care Clinics (388 at the West-end, and 89 at the East-end. The East-end clinic opened 5 days later). Treatment has included chest x-rays and, in a handful of cases, transport to hospital.

This model provides a high standard of care in a venue that is not an Emergency Department, protecting the Emergency Department resource for patients requiring hospital-level care.

We’ve also seen over 8,000 people get tested at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the Brewer Arena. There are also a handful of Assessment Centres within the region such as Hawksebury and Winchester, which are also swabbing.

While we are all encouraged to practice physical distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19, which may mean staying home for most people, we understand that for some, home is not always a safe place. I want to remind the public that The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program, run out of the Civic Campus Emergency Department, is still here to care for patients who have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence.

If you are in need of care, please visit the Emergency Department or call the program at 613-798-5555 x 13770. As always, if you are in need of urgent medical attention, please go to your nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1. We are ready and able to help anyone in need.  

April 11, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

During this holiday weekend, I hope you are finding ways to spend time with your household members and celebrate virtually with friends and family outside your household.

The actions you are taking now will save lives and make a difference for your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. Remember that COVID-19 affects everyone regardless of age and current health status. We often hear stories of older adults with COVID-19 as individuals older than 65 years old often experience the worst outcomes from COVID-19.  However, 79% of all confirmed cases in Ottawa are among people less than 65 years of age. It is important for all of us to do our part and prevent the spread. 

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 524 lab-confirmed cases in the community and 14 outbreaks in institutions. That’s 30 new cases since yesterday. We also have 170 resolved cases and two previously reported outbreaks are declared over.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care changes daily. There are currently 37 people in hospital (four more than yesterday) and 13 of them are in ICU (no change since yesterday).

Sadly, 11 people now have died. Of these individuals, 10 were over the age of 65 years and one was 45-64 years old, seven males and four females.

Clarification about testing

Our website has been updated with the latest COVID-19 testing criteria. We will continue to update the public with any new changes in testing recommendations that come from the Ontario Ministry of Health. Continuing to expand access to testing is important into the future to enable more targeted strategies and relaxation of physical distancing.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, reminder for you to use the COVID-19 self-assessment tool to help determine how to seek further care.

Clarification who needs to seek care and where to go

We continue to hear that people want more clarity about where to get tested or access health care for COVID-19.

  • The Brewer Arena Assessment Center is the primary location for swabbing people who need to be tested for COVID-19.
  • If you can manage your symptoms at home (e.g. your symptoms are generally mild), be tested if you meet the latest COVID-19 testing criteria, but you may not need to seek further health care.
  • If you have escalating symptoms of respiratory illness, including a fever or worsening cough and flu-like symptoms, and are in need of medical attention, you should go to the COVID-19 Care Clinics.
  • If you are in distress (e.g. significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

Anyone with serious illness should never hesitate to go to Emergency Departments. The Ottawa-area hospitals all have capacity to provide emergency service to those who need it and they are using strict infection prevention and control measures.

Thank you again for all the actions you are taking as a community – these actions matter.  There would be more cases of COVID-19 in our community had everyone not done their part over the past month. 

Visit www.ottawapublichealth.ca/coronavirus for the latest news and updates.  

April 9, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

With many religious holidays this weekend and in the coming weeks, this time may feel more difficult for many people. These holidays are often celebrated with gatherings of friends and family.   

I urge everyone not to gather in person, even with extended family outside of your household, as we still need everyone’s efforts to flatten the curve. Instead, I encourage you to find ways to connect through technology for these celebrations.     

We know following these measures has been difficult, and it’s understandable if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Personal connections are how we often support one another through tough times, and this lack of in-person connection is one facet of what makes this emergency unique and more difficult.

I encourage everyone to find ways to support their mental health at this time. Take the time to do what is best for you - whether that means taking a walk alone, taking a break from the news, or cooking a holiday meal with your household members. 

Some people may consider using alcohol during times of stress. We also know that alcohol is the most commonly used substance in Ottawa. This was the case before this pandemic, and recent news reports during COVID-19 have indicated an increase in alcohol sales across the country. Alcohol use is associated with more negative outcomes for individuals and families.  There are some important things we can do to ensure we are balancing our alcohol intake during these challenging times:

  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them;
  • Drink slowly, and have no more than 2 standard drinks in 3 hours;
  • Avoid stockpiling alcohol; and
  • Keep a daily routine, be physically active, and virtually connect with family and friends as healthy ways to manage stress.

For all residents, there are resources and supports available for alcohol, substance use, and mental health, as well as for women and children specifically. Please visit our OPH mental health and COVID-19 webpage to learn more and see what is available for you and your family.

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 458 lab-confirmed cases in the community and 13 outbreaks in institutions. That’s 29 new cases since yesterday. We also have 143 resolved cases.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 30 people in hospital (five less than yesterday) and 12 of them are in ICU (one less than yesterday).

Sadly, nine people now have died in total. Of these, 8 were over the age of 65 years and 1 was 45-64 years old. Six males and three females.

Increasing testing

There is now more capacity to test people at the COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena.

The priority of the healthcare system is being able to test those who are most in need of testing. High priority individuals include:

  • Health care workers and staff who work in health care facilities;
  • Residents and staff in long-term care facilities, retirement homes, and other institutional settings (e.g. correctional facilities, homeless shelters);
  • Hospitalized patients admitted with respiratory symptoms; and
  • Members of remote, isolated, rural, and/or indigenous communities.

Testing is also available for the following people to be tested for COVID-19 if they’re showing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath:

  • Essential workers (people working directly with the public)
  • Household members of health care workers and staff who work in health care facilities
  • Pregnant individuals in the last three months of their pregnancy
  • Returning international travelers
  • Close contacts of confirmed or probable cases

It is also important to remind everyone that it is still not recommended for asymptomatic people from the general public to be tested.

New Care Clinic

To increase access to health services, a second care clinic opened this morning in Ottawa’s east end. It is operated by Hôpital Montfort, in partnership with Ottawa Public Health and the region’s Clinical Care Coordination Centre (C4). The clinic’s primary function is to provide treatment for people with symptoms of respiratory illness – cough, fever, and cold-like symptoms – that can’t be managed at home.  

If you do need to access the Assessment Centre for testing or either care clinic over the long weekend, check out our webpage for updated Easter weekend hours.    

Thank you again for all the actions you are taking as a community – these actions matter. There would be more cases of COVID-19 in our community had everyone not done their part over the past month. 

Visit www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for the latest news and updates.  

April 7, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health
As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 403 lab-confirmed cases in the community and ten outbreaks in institutions. That’s 33 new cases since yesterday. We also have 101 resolved cases.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 36 people in hospital (up from 30 yesterday) and 14 of them are in ICU (no change from yesterday). No new deaths have been reported as of 4 pm yesterday.

As a reminder, we have added detailed information on our OPH website regarding cases. If you have specific questions about case counts, number of people hospitalized and other demographic information please go to OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.

If you look at the epidemiological curve of Ottawa residents with confirmed COVID-19, you’ll note that the number of daily cases is slowing down. While this is hopeful, it would be premature to conclude that the curve is flattening and that COVID-19 is circulating less in our community. Testing people for COVID-19 is an important strategy to confirm how many cases are in our community.  In conversation with our health system partners, we know that the Brewer Arena Assessment Centre has capacity to test more people and we are encouraging people to make use of this service.  

Currently the highest priority for testing, includes:

  • Health care workers (HCW) and staff who work in health care facilities
  • Residents and staff in long-term care facilities, retirement homes, and other institutional settings (e.g., correctional facilities, homeless shelters)
  • Hospitalized patients admitted with respiratory symptoms (new or exacerbated)
  • Members of remote, isolated, rural and/or indigenous communities

We also strongly encourage the following people to also be tested for COVID-19:

  • Close contacts of confirmed or probable cases
  • Individuals (e.g., children, partners, or other household members) living with HCWs or with staff who work in health care facilities
  • Returning international travelers who seek medical attention
  • Critical infrastructure workers – this includes grocery stores, food services, maintenance and transportation workers, and utilities. See the full list of Ontario’s essential workplaces

There is now a new online portal to access COVID-19 test results directly from the provincial laboratory system. This portal was launched on Sunday by the Government of Ontario and offers fast and secure access to test results on your computer and mobile device.

Yesterday, Dr. Theresa Tam announced that the Special Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has come to a consensus that wearing a non-medical mask, even with no symptoms, is a measure you can take to protect those around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain such as when using public transit or at the grocery store.

In addition to the importance of testing and the use of non-medical masks, my message today is clear: It is critical that we continue to practice physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

We know that COVID-19 is a heavy virus spread through droplets. A non-medical mask can reduce the chance of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with others or landing on surfaces.

I want to emphasize that wearing a non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it – it is an additional way to protect others around you.

We have updated a section on our website devoted specifically to frequently asked questions about masks. Please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for more information.

With many religious holidays coming up such as Easter, Passover and Ramadan this may feel like an even harder time for many to practice physical distancing. These holidays are often spent gathering with family and friends. Residents must continue to find ways to connect using technology during these celebrations. I urge you not to gather in person, even with extended family outside your household, as we still need everyone’s efforts to flatten the curve.

As we enter spring, we have had some beautiful weather and the days will continue to get warmer. I continue to encourage residents who are not ill to go outside and get some fresh air. You can spend time in your yard or walking around your neighbourhood. Go for a walk, run or bike ride through your neighbourood park. But you must ensure you are practicing physical distancing at all times and that you are limiting your contacts to household members.  You must not rest or play on structures or gather with others in parks as this could increase your exposure to the virus. Visit ottawa.ca/recreation for more information and guidance.

Finally, please watch this video for my message to residents about how we can continue to practice physical distancing. We’re all going through this together and we will see the other side of the curve.

April 7, 2020 – Special Statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital

The COVID-19 Care Clinicwhich opened yesterday in Ottawa’s west endis providing residents of Ottawa with improved access to the primary care they needOn Monday, 67 patients received treatment at the Care Clinicand a small number were transferred to hospital for additional care. The clinic aims to support family medicine clinics who are not purpose-built to see a large number of patients requiring droplet-level precautionsas well as to support patients whose primary care providers are only providing virtual care at this time. Additionally, this model provides a high standard of care in a venue that is not an Emergency Departmentprotecting the ED resources for patients requiring hospital-level care. 

The Care Clinic creates additional capacity for the system to meet the needs of patients with mild to moderate febrile respiratory illness requiring medical assessment (irrespective of whether or not they meet swabbing criteria for COVID-19).  

It is important for the public to understand that the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the Brewer Arena is different from the Care Clinic model. The Brewer Arena is a dedicated swabbing facility for patients meeting COVID-19 testing criteria, and NOT requiring medical intervention. If you do not require medical intervention, and are seeking to get tested for COVID-19 (you must meet criteria as defined by OPH)please go to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the Brewer Arena.   

If you are in need of urgent medical attention, please go to your nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1. We are ready and able to help anyone in need.   

April 7, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Joseph Pollard

As part of the ongoing efforts to provide important health care services to Ottawa residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 Care Clinic opened its doors to the public on Monday, April 6, at the D. A. Moodie Intermediate School in Bells Corners. This new clinic is open daily from 9am to 4pm, and plays an important role in the region’s integrated response to COVID-19. 

The Care Clinic is a partnership with Queensway Carleton Hospital, Ottawa Public Health, and the region’s Clinical Care Coordination Centre. It is operated by Queensway Carleton Hospital staff, along with community primary care physicians and pediatricians. 

The new clinic functions as a treatment location for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, which cannot be managed at home, such as coughs, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. The addition of the Care Clinic also serves to absorb the increase in patient volume at hospital Emergency Departments. This allows our Emergency Departments to remain clear to deal with emergencies. 

In the clinic’s first day of operation, 67 patients were treated and four (4) were taken to Queensway Carleton Hospital’s Emergency Department. 

“I want to thank everyone involved in setting up the COVID-19 Care Clinic. Getting the clinic set up quickly is a great example of the coordination and teamwork of many people,” said Dr. Joseph Pollard. “While today is only the second day, it is already running very smoothly, and the clinic is certainly serving its purpose. We have been able to find some of the sicker people and get them to the hospital. We’ve also been able to see and assess many others, helping to divert that traffic from Emergency. The cases we’ve seen have been appropriate – the community is using the facility wisely. 

April 6, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 370 lab-confirmed cases in the community and seven outbreaks in institutions. That’s 48 new cases since our last report on Saturday. We also have 56 resolved cases.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 30 people in hospital and 14 of them are in ICU.

Sadly, six people now have died in total. Of these, five were over the age of 65 years and one was 45-64 years old. Three males and three females.

As a reminder, we have added some of this detailed information on our website if you have specific questions about case counts, number of people hospitalized and other demographic information please go to OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.

I know that residents and media are interested in local modelling data.  I was happy to have Dr. Manuel from the Ottawa Hospital join the media availability last week. We are working with him and his team to make further data available to the public later this week.

The decision to extend the closure of City facilities and services until the end of June was not taken lightly. This is a crucial time in our efforts to plank the curve. Now more than ever, it’s important for residents to stay home except for essential trips out of the home and to practice physical distancing at all times when they do venture out.

These actions make a difference. There would be more COVID-19 infections in our community now if residents were not doing their part.  Together, we are making sure hospitals are able to provide life-saving care.

We recognize that this is not easy. The days can feel quite long when staying home. You may be feeling lonely or anxious. I encourage you to find ways to continue to connect with your friends, extended family or neighbours through technology.

The Distress Centre of Ottawa is also available to provide support. If you need someone to talk to, you can call 613-238-3311 24/7 to connect with someone.

We also recognize that for many in our community, financial pressures are making this situation much more difficult. All levels of government are taking steps to help in this regard. Please visit Ottawa.ca for information on these measures and for a list of resources.

Finally, I wanted to share that the COVID-19 Care Clinic opened today in Ottawa’s West end, under the leadership of the Queensway Carleton Hospital and the Champlain Health Region Incident Command. The clinic involves the City of Ottawa, CHEO, primary care physicians, community pediatricians and the regional COVID-19 planning team.  It is equipped to do basic diagnostic tests, such as chest X-rays and lab tests. It is located at 595 Moodie Drive and will be operating Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.

Residents should go to the COVID-19 care clinics if they have escalating symptoms of respiratory illness, including a fever or worsening cough and flu-like symptoms, and they are in need of medical attention. Residents do not need to be tested before going to the care clinic.

The care clinic will help people get the treatment they require for respiratory illness, while helping keep emergency departments for emergencies.

I want to thank everyone for doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is easier when we recognize we are all in it together. We all make a difference, when we all practice physical distancing. 

April 4, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

Thank you to everyone that is doing the right thing – staying home and keeping your physical distance. We can change the impact that this pandemic has on our city when we all work together. 

Yesterday, the province shared projections of total numbers of cases and deaths in Ontario in different scenarios. It is important to note that the different curves and projections show that the measures we are currently taking (e.g. closures of schools and public spaces and ensuring everyone keeps their distance), do make a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and can prevent deaths. The actions of every individual determine which curve we will experience – and we are aiming for the lowest curve possible. The least number of infections at once will ensure that the healthcare system can continue to handle the demand. We are working with our partners to determine what these provincial projections may mean for our city. 

We understand many people may be frustrated with the length of time to receive test results. There is now a new online portal to access COVID-19 test results directly from the provincial laboratory system. This portal was launched yesterday by the Government of Ontario and offers fast and secure access to test results on your computer and mobile device.  

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 322 lab-confirmed cases in Ottawa in the community and six outbreaks in institutions. That’s 33 new cases since our last report. 

Sadly, we are sharing the news of the fourth COVID-related death in Ottawa.  This death is not related to an outbreak in an institution. To respect the person and their family’s privacy we will not be providing greater details on this case.  

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care changes daily. There are currently 26 people in hospital – one more than yesterday, and 12 of them are in ICU, which is two more than yesterday. We have had an increase of one facility experiencing an outbreak since yesterday’s report.

The additional institutional outbreak reported in our surveillance report is at The Ottawa Hospital. It is important to note that there is only one confirmed case in this outbreak. As in all outbreaks, Ottawa Public Health will follow up with any close contacts of individuals with confirmed COVID-19. Ottawa Public Health and The Ottawa Hospital are working closely together to implement measures to reduce the severity and length of the outbreak.

Thank you again for your cooperation as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. I am inspired by the supports that so many Ottawans are providing to each other, whether checking in virtually or helping with grocery runs. While we usually want to visit in-person, to share and manage in times of stress, keeping our contacts to household members as much as possible is going to get us through this pandemic.

Please continue to visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for the latest information.

April 3, 2020 - Special Statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney, Associate Medical Officer of Health 

As the weather gets warmer, some people may be considering moving to seasonal cottages to isolate themselves there.  We want to discourage this and are encouraging our residents to stay at home. This will ensure that residents have the necessary social and health supports in place if you become ill with COVID-19. Health care systems in smaller and remote communities typically have less capacity to provide health care services with the increased demands of COVID-19 and risk being overwhelmed if needing to care for non-permanent residents.   

I totally understand concerns that families have about their loved ones who reside in retirement or long-term care homes. Some families are considering whether to take loved ones out of their retirement or long-term care home. This is a challenging decision and I can share some issues that families need to consider. Putting COVID-19 aside for a moment, a family would need to think about the individual’s health, particularly why they decided to live in the retirement or long-term care home in the first place, and the extent of which their condition has changed over time. Will the family be able to assure the safety and care their loved one requires? COVID-19 presents additional challenges. If the resident is coming from a home with an outbreak, then need to assume that they may be infected and act accordingly with precautions in the home for 14 days so other household members would not become infected. There is the additional risk over time that other members of the household, who perhaps could have asymptomatic infections acquired outside the home, to expose their family member. And lastly, that the former resident would not be able to return to the home if there was an outbreak at their facility. As I indicated, not a simple decision for families to make. 

I'm sure you've all heard Ontario's projections for COVID-19 cases and death earlier today. I'd like to reiterate that we need everyone to stay home and practice physical distancing. The public health measures we have implemented in Ottawa and across Ontario are critical to make the difference we are seeking from the projected worst-case scenario.  So, I want to repeat what the province has said: Stay home. Stop the spread.And stay safe. 

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 289 lab-confirmed cases in Ottawa in the community and five outbreaks in institutions. That’s 37 new cases since our last report. Again, the majority of this increase is due to the backlog of tests with specimens collected on or before March 22.  

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 25 people in hospital – one more than yesterday, and 10 of them are in ICU, which is three more than yesterday. We have had no increase in the number of facilities experiencing an outbreak since yesterday’s report. This includes three retirement homes, one long-term care home, and one group home. 

Thank you again for your ongoing cooperation in keeping residents informed and reducing the spread of COVID-19.

April 3, 2020 – Special Statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital

We have seen the projections released by the Ontario Government this afternoon, and we are reviewing them to ensure our regional preparation activities are aligned.

I’m able to share with you today an initiative between all hospitals in the Champlain region to optimize the movement of patients through the healthcare sector—this is known as patient flow.

Our hospitals have a long history of collaborating to ensure that the safety of patients and staff is at the forefront of everything that we do. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve locally, we have developed a regional patient flow strategy that will allow patients to be cared for in the most appropriate centre given their unique care needs.

Patient flow across the region will be coordinated by a single command centre. Hospitals will transfer COVID-19 positive patients who need acute or critical care to a select number of designated hospitals that have units for COVID-19 positive patients. Patients who do not require this level of care will be transferred out of acute and critical care hospitals to the most appropriate hospital setting. 

Our goal is to optimize the entire healthcare system in the region. This will ensure that we are ready for a surge of patients requiring care for COVID-19, while ensuring we continue to provide services to the many patients requiring care unrelated to the pandemic.

Evaluating patient flow from a regional lens will enable hospitals to maintain access to patient care, and ensure that no single area of the health system becomes overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is critical as everything interconnected, and we have to support our partners.

As I mentioned yesterday, the first COVID-19 Care Clinic—led by the Queensway Carleton Hospital and supported by regional partners—will be opening on Monday, April 6.  

We are ready to open a second Care Clinic, which will be located in the East End —led by Hôpital Montfort— and this will based on the volume of patients we observe. The second Care Clinic can be operational at any time if activated by Ontario Health.

This will serve to further protect our Emergency Departments, and will also reduce pressure on our family doctor’s offices. 

If you’re waiting at home for your results after being tested for COVID-19 and begin to experience shortness of breath or chest pain, please go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911. Otherwise, please continue to self-isolate while you await your results. Please go to your nearest Emergency Department for all non-COVID-19 related medical emergencies. We are ready and able to help anyone in need.

April 3, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Doug Manuel

Hi I'm Dr. Doug Manuel. I am a Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa. I am a research scientist, a public health specialist and family doctor. I've been asked by the Hospital and Ottawa Public Health to assist with COVID-19 modelling and projections.

We just heard a few hours ago about projections from Ontario Public Health. I am helping with local insights to those numbers. We have good local data that can help us augment those provincial projections.

For me, projecting COVID-19 is like forecasting a hurricane. We need to constantly update our projections with the latest data, including local data to help understand when and where the hurricane will reach landfall. That is what we will be doing in the coming weeks. While it’s hard to forecast long-term, we are able forecast more effectively for a shorter range — and that will give us time to plan as a region if needed.  

There is one really big difference between projecting hurricanes and projecting COVID-19. We can't prevent a hurricane from reaching the shore. Ontario’s projections today told us that we can prevent many, if not most of the health effects of COVID-19, including deaths. The actions of individuals in our community make the difference – if we work together, we can change the direction of this pandemic.

Thank you. 

April 2, 2020 – Special statement from Roger Chapman, Director of By Law and Regulatory Services

I am joining you today to speak about how our officers are serving our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you are all aware, our service is now responsible for the enforcement of the rules set out under the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act relating to gatherings of more than five people, restaurants offering dine-in options to customers, businesses open without an exemption and gatherings in City parks, including the use of play structures.

Yesterday our officers received 130 calls in regards to Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act issues and closed parks.

We had complaints about a farm allowing horseback riding lessons, hair salons continuing to operate, groups playing soccer at Millennium Park in Orleans, beach volleyball at Britannia Beach … neighbours gathering in each others back yards.

We have heard concerns from residents not sure when they should be contacting 3-1-1:

Let me be clear. If you see residents playing on a soccer field, or on a play structure in a park … regardless of whether it is on City or Private property, you can report this to 3-1-1.

If you see a restaurant offering dine-in services to customers, or a non-essential business that is operating …. Call 3-1-1.

We have a dedicated team of Officers who are not only responding to these calls but are proactively visiting parks across the City.

Our goal right now is to educate the public … to let them know these rules are in place for their safety… We have issued dozens of verbal warnings at this point … but please know that failure to comply with our verbal warnings can result in fines under the provincial Act of up to $100,000 for individuals, $500,000 for a director of a corporation or $10-million for a corporation itself.

I would like to remind the public that these orders have been put in place for public safety and to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. I thank each and every resident who has been adhering to these new regulations. We know physical distancing is not easy, but by following these rules we will make a difference and we will get through this together.

April 2, 2020 - Special Statement from Dr. Brent Moloughney, Associate Medical Officer of Health 

We want to ensure that all residents have important information about measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, regardless of whether they can access our webpage or social media channels. Therefore, every household in Ottawa will soon receive a handout in the mail with detailed information about physical distancing.  A reminder that when receiving a package, newspaper, or mail, to always wash your hands well with soap and water after handling it.  If you have questions about mail and parcels and risk of COVID-19, check out our updated FAQ on this topic.

It is imperative that all residents continue to practice physical distancing and keep contacts limited to those within your household as much as possible. 

More people are being asked to self-isolate: people with confirmed COVID-19 and their close contacts, adults older than 70 years of age, people with respiratory symptoms, and anyone returning from travel.  When self-isolating, it is important to stay in a separate room from other people in your home as much as possible and when you are in the same room to keep a distance of at least two metres and wear a mask.  Additional guidance for self-isolation and also for household members is available on our website.       

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 252 lab-confirmed cases in Ottawa in the community and five outbreaks in institutions. That’s 58 new cases since our last report.  Again, this increase is mainly due to the backlog of tests with specimens collected on or before Mar 20, and not a spike of recent cases.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 24 people in hospital – one less than yesterday, and seven of them are in ICU, which is the same as yesterday. We have had no increase in the number of facilities experiencing an outbreak since yesterday’s report. This includes: three retirement homes, one long-term care home, and one group home.

There continues to be discussion about who should wear a mask and the effectiveness of masks.  At this time, we are advising that anyone who is sick or is caring for someone who is sick to wear a mask.  It is very important that people with symptoms wear a mask, especially when going to an appointment, clinic or a hospital. Overall, we need to make sure our healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of caring for people have first priority for medical masks.

For people who are healthy and not coughing and sneezing, you are not required to wear a mask. I would first stress the importance of hand washing and physical distancing – these are known strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  While homemade masks alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19, I would not discourage people in the community who want to wear a homemade mask.

Yesterday, Dr. Tam and Minister Hadju also provided updated guidance on the use of homemade masks. 

A homemade facemask may prevent you from touching your nose and mouth and may help cover a cough or sneeze to keep it to yourself.  To improve effectiveness:

  • a mask should be well-fitted with no gaps;
  • you must wash your hands before and after handling a mask;
  • and you need to follow proper handling and washing as the outside can become contaminated.

We do have guidance on our website how to put a mask on properly if you need or decide to wear one.

Thank you again for your ongoing patience and cooperation in keeping residents informed. Please continue to visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus    

April 2, 2020 – Special Statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital
I would like to announce that the first Covid-19 Care Clinic—led by the Queensway Carleton Hospital and supported by regional partners—will be opening on Monday, April 6th.   

The role of the Care Clinics is to provide additional capacity for patients with febrile respiratory illnesses requiring medical assessment (irrespective of whether or not they meet swabbing criteria).  

This new clinic will be an added piece of the region’s integrated response to COVID-19. As a region, we continue to adapt our services in order to provide the best possible support to the residents in our community. 

It is important for the public to understand that the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the Brewer Arena is not the same as these care clinics.  The Brewer site is a dedicated swabbing facility for patients meeting COVID testing criteria and NOT requiring medical intervention.  

This first Care Clinic on Moodie Drive  will operate as a treatment location for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness using an urgent care clinic model – symptoms of respiratory illness include: cough, fever and other cold-like symptoms. This service is for all patients with fever and respiratory symptoms, and you do not need to meet COVID testing criteria to receive care. The staff at the clinic are equipped to do diagnostic tests, such as chest X-rays and lab tests.  

We will be ready to open a second Care Clinic—led by Hopital Montfort— based on the volume of patients we observe.  The second Care Clinic can be operational at any time if activated by Ontario Health.

This will further protect our Emergency Departments, and will also reduce pressure on our family doctor’s offices. We will be providing a media release with details shortly.  

If you’re waiting at home for your results after being tested for COVID-19 and begin to experience shortness of breath or chest pain, please go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911. Otherwise, please continue to self-isolate while you await your results. And please go to your nearest Emergency Department for all non-COVID-19 related medical emergencies. We are ready and able to help anyone in need. 

 April 01, 2020 - Special statement from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

I want to thank everyone for joining us today as we update you on the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa.

I’d like to start by announcing today that we will be hosting a virtual town hall on the topic of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

This virtual town hall will take place on Thursday, April 9 at 2 pm.

This will be an opportunity for residents with to call-in and ask questions about COVID-19 to myself and other City leaders.

Like we did with the last City Council meeting, residents can also watch the virtual town hall on Rogers Television.

I encourage you to watch for details on the City’s social media channels, as well as in an ad in this weekend’s Ottawa Citizen and Le Droit.

As many of you aware, one of our OC Transpo operators has tested positive for COVID-19.

This individual has been in self isolation since developing symptoms on March 20, and remains in self isolation at home after receiving the positive test result on March 21.

I want to assure you all that OC Transpo has put several measures in place to protect both customers and bus operators.

OC Transpo is working with Ottawa Public Health to trace and contact individuals who have, or may have been, in close contact with this operator, this would include staff, friends and family.

OC Transpo has identified and removed the vehicles that were driven by the operator from service.

These vehicles will undergo a deep clean and full sanitation before entering back into service.

OC Transpo customers who have concerns about this exposure can call OPH at

613-580-6744 to speak to a public health nurse, or they can visit Ottawa-public-health-dot-c-a.

Our best wishes are with the operator as they recover from this virus.

As you know, many residents and businesses are being financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – either through layoffs, closures or reduced business.

We have developed some property tax relief for those residents and businesses with a 2020 Property Tax Hardship Plan, which was approved by City Council last week.

If you are approved, the payment for both the interim and final property taxes will be due on October 30.

I want to remind you that in order to qualify for approval, you must complete an online application that is available on ottawa.ca/taxrelief.

It’s important to go online now and complete the application, as the grace period for all property owners to pay the interim property tax bill ends on April 15.

I want to also remind impacted landlords that many of your tenants are in the same financial boat as you are.

Property owners with tenants who do not pass on the deferral are deemed ineligible for the hardship deferral program and all taxes, penalty and interest are payable immediately.

We will all get through this better if we continue to work together as a community.

I also want to remind residents that is it critical that we listen to our medical experts here at OPH, as well as our federal and provincial experts, and practice physical distancing.

If we want to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community, this is of utmost importance.

I have heard some concerning reports of larger groups of residents gathering together – in both public and private settings.

For example, Bylaw and Regulatory Services had to respond to a child’s birthday party held in a backyard, which had between 12 and 20 children present.

Bylaw officer had to visit Lansdowne Park on a complaint that more than 20 people were playing on the play structures and in the skate park.

Bylaw also received complaints about a yard sale in the Greenboro area.

It’s unfortunate, but we just can’t have these types of gatherings.

I know we want to continue some sort of normalcy in our lives.

We want to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and special occasions.

We want to spend time with our family and our friends.

But, please, limit your gatherings to the members of your immediate family who live in your residence.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our City Bylaw officers who have been busy responding to calls reporting large social gatherings.

Bylaw and Regulatory Services received 139 calls for Provincial Orders and closed parks – and this was just yesterday.

So, please, stay home and respect the physical distancing guidelines.

This is our collective responsibility.

We need everyone to work together to help protect all our residents.

Speaking of lending a helping hand, I also want to remind residents that the City has launched a formal donation process for businesses and residents to donate commercial-grade personal protective equipment to protect our emergency responders and front-line workers who are supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The PPE supplies must be commercial-grade and in their original packaging.

I want to thank all the residents and businesses who have generously come forward to donate through this formal process.

For those still interested in donating, you are asked to email donations@ottawa.ca, and provide information on the items and quantities. 

Again, I want to thank all our residents for their generosity and for their collaboration as we continue to fight COVID-19.

April 01, 2020 - Special statement by Councillor Keith Egli, Chair of Ottawa’s Board of Health

Responding to this crisis must be a joint effort . OPH and the City can message all kinds of useful information but if the general public does not follow the directions given then we have a problem and that problem is not going to go away.

An excellent and telling example of that is the growing number of incidents of people gathering in public places like parks. Most people are following the rules and those efforts are greatly appreciated but many are not .

I tweeted out a photo on this issue yesterday and it has been looked at by more than 1600 people. It has been liked and shared . There were no negative online comments and yet all through the day I received email concerns about people gathering in a variety of different parks and using play structures. Bylaw has been alerted and they will do what they can.

However one has to ask if this is really the best use of City resources at this point in time . People have suggested to me that we  put fences up in the parks or remove swings and slides . Again the question is whether this is really the best use of City resources . In both cases the answer is a resounding no.

We all know or should know and the City and OPH will continue to pump out the message that we should not be gathering in the parks or other public spots. The Provincial and Federal governments continue  send the same message and we thank them for that. Do the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing with kids to entertain and the weather warming up, but the right thing and stay out of the parks.

Secondly, and just as importantly please recognize that this fight is not over and will not likely be over any  time soon. The restrictions will continue for the foreseeable future whether it be school closures or the rules relating to how  businesses can currently operate . We must accordingly continue in a response mode to this crisis. I fully believe we can be successful in our efforts if we work as a collective and respect the greater communal goals.

We must stay the course by staying apart. Thank you.

 April 01, 2020 - Special joint statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health and Dr. Brent Moloughney, Associate Medical Officer of Health

As we start a new month, we recognize that our new norms of physical distancing, school closures, and changes to employment settings and situations will remain in place this month.  Please be sure to check out the resources available from Ottawa Public Health, provincial and federal government, and other partners to support you during this time.  There are many resources to: support your physical and mental health; supplement finances; provide childcare for essential workers; help student learn at home; and much more. 

Despite the situation continually changing each day, a few things continue to remain the same. Our goal remains the same – we want to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  And at this time, our guidance remains the same: stay home and only go out for the essentials.  If you have returned from travel or have respiratory symptoms, you must self-isolate. 

We want to reiterate a statement from Dr. Theresa Tam yesterday, that COVID-19 does not discriminate.  All residents are susceptible to COVID-19.  Young people are getting it and are being hospitalized in Ottawa.  People of all ages need to stay home, limit contact to those people in your own household as much as possible, and only go out for essential work or supplies. 

OPH makes taking care of our employees a top priority, so we can take care of the public. We have a policy for “forced rest” for people to take breaks on a regular basis.   This will ensure sustainability of response during this pandemic. 

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 194 confirmed cases in Ottawa and five outbreaks – in three retirement homes and one long-term care home that we shared yesterday, plus a new outbreak with 1 confirmed case at a group home - Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. That’s 50 new cases since our last report.  This increase in cases is in large part due to the processing of the “backlog” of tests with the majority of specimens taken on or before March 19. The epidemic curve on our website provides the picture of the increase over time.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 25 people in hospital – 5 more than yesterday, 7 of them are in ICU, which is 1 more than yesterday.  Looking at the overall data for the outbreak, seniors aged 65 years and older were the most frequent age group ever hospitalized (49%) or ever in the ICU (67%).  So this means, the majority of hospitalizations (51%) and 33% of ICU admissions are people under 65 years of age.  

Case and contact management

On the topic of case and contact management, we continue to receive guidance from the provincial Ministry of Health.  Currently OPH case managers are in touch with all positive cases and close contacts and provide education on self-isolation requirements. 

Based on the latest guidance, we are strengthening case and contact measures to ensure that individuals with COVID-19 and their close contacts remain on strict self-isolation. These efforts will help us flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community in addition to the social distancing measures currently being encouraged.

April 01, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital

I want to reiterate to the public that Emergency Departments in the city are still here to care for you. Please continue to go to the nearest emergency department for any medical emergency. We are ready and able to help anyone in need. 

If you’re waiting at home for your results after being tested for COVID-19 and begin to experience shortness of breath or chest pain, please go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911. Otherwise, please continue to self-isolate while you await your results.  

I want to take a moment to thank all of the people and organizations who have donated personal protective equipment to health-care organizations throughout the region. Just to name a few: Hydro Ottawa and Tomlinson Group made significant donations over the last couple of days.  We would like to thank our researchers at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute for their continued efforts in raising PPE for the region.  The University of Ottawa has also gathered substantial donations in PPE both from researchers and students across faculties, as well as from the community.  

If you would like to donate PPE, please send an email to COVIDDonations@toh.ca – which is where the community can send their offers. Gowns, masks, gloves, face shields, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are all welcome. It is important to note that this is a regional supply and donations will be distributed to health-care organizations throughout the Champlain Region.  

March 31, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital

The Clinical Care Coordination Committee – C4- continues to plan and activate the regional response to COVID-19 with our partners in Eastern Ontario.

I can update you on some of the C4 planning that is now being rolled out, in partnership with the Almonte General Hospital and Winchester District memorial hospitals.

The Almonte Assessment Centre opens today. It is by referral by the family physician and an appointment is required. In addition, the Winchester Assessment Centre opens tomorrow.

A reminder that the Hawkesbury Assessment Centre is also up and running through a partnership with The Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

The Ottawa Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena continues to serve its purpose of relieving some of the pressure off local Emergency Departments, so that they can provide care to those who are acutely ill. So far, 5,500 people have been assessed at the Centre – and about 85% have been swabbed.

I can tell you that there are ongoing efforts to increase the PROVINCIAL lab testing capacity. As of Sunday, the provincial lab increased its capacity by over 150% to approximately 4,800 tests per day.

This has reduced the PROVINCIAL backlog by one THIRD since March 25. This is good news for those patients in our region, who are awaiting their results from the centralized lab.

In the meantime, the REGIONAL lab has about a 48-hour turnaround time, so we are getting closer to the type of patient experience we want for the residents of Eastern Ontario.

If you’re waiting at home for your results after being tested for COVID-19, and begin to experience shortness of breath or chest pain, please go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911.

 

Please continue to go to the nearest emergency department for any non-COVID related medical emergencies. We are ready and able to help anyone in need.

Donations of PPE continue to come in throughout the region. In response to the donation offers, we created COVIDDonations@toh.ca,which is where the community can send their offers. Gowns, masks, gloves, face shields, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer are all welcome. It is important to note that this is a regional supply. 

March 31, 2020 - Special joint statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health and Dr. Brent Moloughney, Associate Medical Officer of Health

The situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve quickly, and our team has been working around the clock to review new directives and guidelines coming from upper levels of government, assess the local situation and provide our community with the best possible advice.

As we mentioned yesterday, we are changing how we report case data on our website. Going forward, our website will have more information on case data and will align with provincial reporting. Please watch for this in the coming days.

Given the rapid changes, we continue to encourage residents to visit our website at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for the latest information.

This morning, we were informed that the Ministry of Education has decided that Ontario schools will remain closed until at least May. We recognize that this situation is difficult for families. It’s difficult for children who want to be in school, learning, and interacting with their friends, teachers, and other school supports. It’s also difficult for parents as many continue to work either from home or in the community at essential businesses or services. However, continued physical (social) distancing is crucial to flattening the curve.

Number of cases

As of 4 pm yesterday, OPH is investigating 144 confirmed cases in Ottawa. That’s 14 new reported cases since we reported to you yesterday.

Sadly, we have also had our third COVID-related death in Ottawa.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care also changes daily. There are currently 20 people in hospital – three more than yesterday, six of them are in ICU, which is one less than yesterday. We also now have one additional resolved case for a total of 11.

Long-term care and retirement homes

As a result of new direction from the Ministry of Health with respect to long-term care and retirement homes, the COVID-19 outbreak definition has changed whereby we are to now consider a single laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, in a resident or staff member, as a confirmed respiratory outbreak in the home. As a result, additional homes have now moved out of “outbreak watch” to status as having a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak. This does not change OPH’s response, since outbreak precautions were already put in place, however, it does change reporting of the number of confirmed outbreaks in these institutions.

As such, OPH now has four confirmed outbreaks - three in retirement homes and one in a long-term care home.

In addition to Orleans Promenade and Maplewood, which were previously reported, we have now added Park Place and Garden Terrace as facilities with confirmed outbreaks. The confirmed facilities are as follows:

Orleans Promenade– three residents, including two deaths

Maplewood Retirement Community – one resident and one health care worker

Park Place – one health care worker

Garden Terrace – one health care worker

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, and every resident must continue doing their part to keep themselves, their family members, their neighbours, co-workers and community members healthy and safe, and reduce the spread of this virus.

Thank you again for your ongoing patience and cooperation in keeping residents informed. Please continue to visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for the latest information.

March 30, 2020 - Special statement from Mayor Jim Watson

2nd Death in Ottawa 

Before I begin, I would like to offer my most sincere condolences to the family of the resident who has passed away this past weekend.

As Dr. Etches mentioned, this is the second death related to COVID-19, it serves as a sad and important reminder that we all need to do our part in making efforts to flatten the curve.

This means washing your hands regularly, respecting physical (social) distancing guidelines, limiting trips outside the house to essential ones only, and to check in virtually on family, friends and neighbours.

New Enforcement Measures 

We need to keep residents safe and do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

That is why Ottawa By-law Officers have been given the ability to enforce new rules under the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act related to physical distancing.

This means that, effective immediately, a dedicated team of officers at By-law and Regulatory Services will be proactively monitoring and enforcing calls related to:

  • Gatherings of more than 5 people in public or private residences;
  • People congregating in parks/using park facilities or equipment;
  • Restaurants that continue to offer dine-in services; and,
  • Non-essential retail businesses continuing to operate.

Residents who witness these issues should report them by calling 3-1-1.

By-law Officers will be taking a progressive enforcement approach; with the initial goal to educate residents and businesses about these laws and their importance to public health.

As time goes on, failure to comply could result in fines under the provincial Act of up to $100,000 for individuals, $500,000 for a director of a corporation or $10-million for a corporation itself.

By-law and Regulatory Services continues to collaborate with the Ottawa Police Service, which will continue to enforce calls related to Quarantine Orders issued to individuals who have been travelling or are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19.

Complaints related to the Quarantine Act should be reported to the non-urgent Ottawa Police phone line at 613-236-1222.

2020 Spring Freshet 

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now facing the 2020 Spring Freshet.

Many of Ottawa residents awoke today with renewed concerns for potential flooding given the heavy weekend rains.

Staff has advised me that water levels are not currently at threatening levels.

Later today, I will be issuing a memo to Council saying that I have asked Councillor Eli El-Chantiry to play a leadership role as Council Liaison on the 2020 Spring Freshet.

Councillor El-Chantiry has been front and centre in helping our local communities rebuild after the devastating floods that hit our City in 2017 and 2019.

Some of you may recall that Councillor El-Chantiry was helping his friends and neighbours sandbag their properties while his family was losing a property to the flooding.

Councillor El-Chantiry will work closely with members of Councillor whose wards have been most severely impacted in the past, including Councillor Theresa Kavanagh (Bay) and Councillor George Darouze (Osgoode) - who is temporarily managing Cumberland Ward issues for Cumberland Village and other parts of the ward.

I want to thank Councillor El-Chantiry for liaising with the City’s senior leadership team, my office, members of Council and key community agencies over the course of the coming days and until such time as the 2020 spring flood threat is behind us.

This is an exceptionally challenging time for our City and our residents, and I want to thank Councillor El-Chantiry and all members of Council for working together as we focus on mobilizing the spirit and resources our communities need to overcome these challenges.

 March 30, 2020 - Special statement from Councillor Keith Egli, Chair of Ottawa’s Board of Health
Good afternoon

I appreciate the opportunity to address the public during these very trying times and I thank the media for assisting OPH in getting important messages delivered .

I want to take this opportunity to recognize all the hard work that OPH staff and all healthcare providers are putting in as our first line of Defense against COVID-19.

The challenge is a significant one but there are simple things we can all do to assist in the fight.

First and foremost stay informed so you can stay on top of your personal health situation. The best way to do this is to check the OPH website regularly. 

Secondly, practice physical distancing. This means no unnecessary trips out of the home and no public gatherings.

Thirdly, during these difficult times treat your friends and neighbours with kindness and compassion. Reach out virtually to check up on one another . Look after one another .

Let’s stick together by staying apart.

Thank you.

March 30, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

As of this morning, there are 130 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa. That’s eight new reported cases since yesterday. You may have noticed that the Ministry of Health has changed the way it is reporting case data. We also understand that going forward, the Ministry of Health is going to provide more information on cases across Ontario at 10:30 daily, based on results available as of 4 pm the day before. As the number of cases grows, the Ottawa Public Health (OPH) team is adjusting how we collect and track data and we are also working to update our reporting strategy to align with Ministry reporting.

We now have outbreaks in two retirement homes in Ottawa. There are currently five confirmed cases at Orleans Promenade and counts pending for another outbreak at Maplewood Retirement Community.

Sadly, we have also had our second COVID-related death in Ottawa. The second death is a resident from Orleans Promenade. 

OPH continues to investigate and support both homes with their outbreak management measures. We are connecting with close contacts, as we do in all cases.  

The number of people hospitalized has increased. There are now 21 people in hospital, six of them are in ICU. 

Fortunately, we can now report 10 resolved cases.  

Yesterday the provincial government announced new restrictions on group gatherings which are now limited to a maximum of five people, with exceptions for: 

  • private households of five people or more 
  • childcare centres supporting frontline healthcare workers and first responders
  • funerals, which are permitted to proceed with up to 10 people at one time  

Earlier today, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, issued a statement calling on Ontarians to do more to combat the spread of COVID-19, noting that opting out is NOT an option. 

He strongly recommended that all residents stay home except for essential reasons, such as to: 

  • Access health care services
  • Shop for groceries 
  • Pick-up medication at the pharmacy
  • Walk pets when required
  • Support vulnerable community members with meeting the above needs

Given the greater risk of severe outcomes to Ontarians who are elderly, he also strongly recommended that individuals over 70 years of age self-isolate.  

This also applies to individuals who have compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions. 

We recognize that physical (social) distancing and self-isolation is hard. People may be feeling disconnected and experience difficulties in managing stress or anxiety. We also know that for some, home is not a safe place. We were pleased to see yesterday’s announcements by the federal government for funding for Kids Help Phone and New Horizons for Seniors through United Way. If you are struggling, please reach out. Our website has a list of mental health resources available in our community. The Ottawa Distress Centre is also available for people needing more support. 

I also want to reinforce that anyone who is not experiencing signs of illness and who is not subject to self-isolation under the Quarantine Act should try to get outside for fresh air and exercise in order to maintain their health during these difficult times. When doing so, please remember to practice physical (social) distancing. That means staying about two meters away from anyone you encounter during your walk.  Passing someone on a sidewalk is not considered a high-risk activity for infection with COVID-19. 

Thank you again for your ongoing patience and cooperation in keeping residents informed. Please continue to visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus       

 March 30, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Emergency Management, The Ottawa Hospital
 The COVID-19 assessment centre at Brewer Arena continues to take pressure off Emergency Departments in the City. To date over 5,000 patients have been assessed at the Centre who would, otherwise, have gone to an emergency department. Of those who have been assessed, 87% were swabbed.

If you’re waiting at home for your results after being tested for COVID-19 and begin to experience shortness of breath or chest pain, please go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911. 

And please continue to go to the nearest emergency department for any non-COVID related medical emergencies. We are ready and able to help anyone in need.

Nos services d’urgence sont prêts à vous accueillir s’il vous faut des soins urgents. La mise en place du Centre d’évaluation pour la COVID-19 a permis de soulager la pression sur les Urgences. Alors si vous avez besoin de soins médicaux urgents, n’hésitez pas à aller à la salle d’Urgence la plus proche. 

Si vous attendez vos résultats de dépistage de la COVID-19 et que vos symptômes s’aggravent (p. ex. essoufflement, douleur à la poitrine), allez à l’Urgence la plus proche ou appelez le 911.

We are aware that there is a backlog in processing tests in Ontario. All swab analysis was sent to a centralized lab for processing prior to March 23. A dedicated team is working to get those results back from the central lab for residents of Eastern Ontario. 

Last week, The Eastern Ontario Regional Lab Association (EORLA), began COVID-19 testing locally and has made significant progress to increase our regional test capacity. I want to thank everyone still waiting, for their patience. In the meantime, please do not seek retesting or call the centralized Public Health Lab in Toronto for results, as they are unable to release results to individuals. Patients who were seen at the Assessment Centre at Brewer arena, will be contacted by telephone by clinical staff from The Ottawa Hospital or CHEO.

Our community has stepped forward, like many others across the province.  We are receiving donations of supplies from people in health care, education, technology and the construction industry.  We are grateful for the community support. In response to the donation offers, we created COVIDDonations@toh.ca – which is where the community can send their offers. Gowns, masks, gloves, face shields, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are all welcome. It is important to note that this is a regional supply.

I can also provide an update on the care clinics in the community. These care clinics will be ready to open quickly when needed to support our health-care system. This is a collaboration between Queensway Carleton Hospital and Hopital Montfort, supported by our regional partners.

These care clinics are specifically designed to absorb an increased volume of patients with febrile respiratory illness, offloading local emergency departments and family doctors' offices. They will be able to provide diagnostics as well as care, and we hope to deflect these patients from emergency departments while at the same time providing a high standard of care.

Finally, at the request from the province, and along with other Ontario hospitals, we are now reporting our PPE inventory to the province.  

 March 29, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

It’s a challenging and even frustrating time for everyone – parents, children, teenagers, seniors, employers and employees and essential services workers. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and every citizen must continue doing their part to keep themselves, their family members, their neighbours, co-workers and community members healthy and safe, and reduce the spread of this virus.

As of this morning, there are 122 confirmed cases in Ottawa and a second outbreak at a retirement home in Ottawa, at Maplewood Retirement Community. OPH continues to investigate the outbreak. The retirement home has implemented outbreak management and OPH is connecting with close contacts, as we do in all cases. All residents have been notified and are in self-isolation. Staff at the retirement home continue to be screened and have been instructed to wear personal protective equipment in the building, specifically wearing a mask when entering the building and following droplet/contact procedures in all resident rooms.

With more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ottawa, including confirmation of community spread, we continue to urge everyone to practice physical (social) distancing or self-isolate if you develop symptoms.  Some key things to remember:

For individuals with respiratory symptoms (such as fever, cough), please follow these directives:

  • You must self-isolate for 14 days from when your symptoms started, or until 24 hours after symptoms have FULLY resolved, whichever is longer.
  • You must not leave your home if you have respiratory symptoms. Call your doctor or TeleHealth at 1-866-797-0000 if you have questions.
  • If your symptoms are worsening to a point where you cannot manage at home, please visit your nearest emergency department. 
  • If you think you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, a self assessment tool is available to help determine how to seek further care.

For individuals who are returning from travel, by federal law, you must immediately self-isolate for 14 days.  

  • The federal Minister of Health announced an Emergency Order requiring any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. By federal law, if you have just returned to Canada from abroad, leaving your property, even to go for a walk or to the grocery store, is not permitted under the Quarantine Order issued March 25, 2020. This also means not stopping at the grocery store or the pharmacy on the way home from the airport or the border.
  • If you need groceries or other essential items, have a family member, friend or neighbour do the shopping for you and leave items at the door.
  • If you have respiratory symptoms, follow the guidance in the section above.

For ALL Ottawa residents (except those listed above)

  • Practice physical (social) distancing – avoid all non-essential trips in the community.
  • Household contacts (people you live with) do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick, or have returned from travel within the past 14 days.
  • Cancel ALL group gatherings, including group/team play on sports fields.
  • Connect via phone, video chat, or social media instead of in-person.
  • Talk to your employer about working from home (if possible).
  • Avoid visiting elderly friends or relatives unless the visit is essential.
  • Keep windows down for essential community trips via taxi or rideshares.

And some special reminders for parents with children, as well as all of us as we practice physical (social) distancing:  

You can go outside.  It’s healthy. You can still take a walk, play with your dog outside, or kick a ball with members of your household who are already close contacts.

When outside, maintain a two-metre distance. Avoid crowds and maintain a distance of two metres (six feet) from those around you. Make an effort to step-aside, or pass others quickly and courteously on sidewalks.  Passing someone on the sidewalk is not considered close contact or a significant risk for exposure to COVID-19.

Remember to check in with others by phone or other technology. Support your neighbours if you can. Check in with yourself too. It’s ok not to be ok, and I encourage you to reach out to the Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311 if you need help or are having trouble coping.

Each of our efforts are needed as a community. The actions you take will affect not only you, but your loved ones and the most vulnerable people in our community. By acting now, you may be saving lives – the life of a family member, a neighbour, a friend, or a coworker.

This is a difficult and challenging time for everyone, but we can do it. I’d like to thank you for your cooperation with physical (social) distancing from others and thank people who are helping each other. Supporting our neighbours is essential for us to make it through this pandemic. Please go to OttawaPublicHealth.ca and follow and share our updates on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Sincerely,

Dr. Vera Etches

For more information on testing and care for COVID-19, and how to practice physical (social) distancing, visit our website: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus. Information on financial and social supports is available on Ottawa.ca

March 27, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

Since Ottawa Public Health confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in Ottawa on March 11, our day-to-day lives have changed drastically. We know that staying home and practicing physical (social) distancing and being in self-isolation is not easy and we thank you for all you are doing to help flatten the curve.

It is important to remember that this is a global issue and the response around the world has been immense to influence the impact of COVID-19. There are now more than 86,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 being reported in the United States; this number is greater than the total number of cases in China and Italy. Confirmed cases are just the tip of the iceberg of the actual infections out there.

Around this time of year, many travellers are returning from travel around the world, including many snowbirds returning to Canada from the US. Returning travelers from all destinations outside of Canada MUST self-isolate and self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days. Do not go shopping for groceries or supplies; these must be picked up by a family member or friend or through online ordering options.  

Please visit our self-isolation page for more instructions on how to self-isolate, including for specific scenarios.

As of this morning, there are 75 confirmed cases in Ottawa. Included in these numbers is the first confirmed case in a retirement home in Ottawa. This case was confirmed at Promenade Seniors’ Suites & Retirement Residence in Orleans. The individual as well as their spouse, who is also a resident of the retirement home, have been hospitalized. The retirement home has implemented outbreak management and OPH is connecting with close contacts, as we do in all cases. All residents have been notified and are in self-solation. Staff at the home continue to be screened and have been instructed to wear personal protective equipment in the building, specifically wearing a mask when entering the building and following droplet/contact procedures in all resident rooms.

The number of people hospitalized and in intensive care has increased. There are 17 people in hospital (including the two from the retirement home), seven of which are in intensive care. Of the people in intensive care, most are in their 50s and 60s, with only one individual older than 70. This is important for the public to appreciate as it demonstrates that the illness does not discriminate age – anyone is susceptible. Furthermore, 16 per cent of all the cases to date have no travel and no known contact with a confirmed case, demonstrating clear community spread.

Ottawa Public Health continues to communicate and work closely with local hospitals, health care partners, businesses, the City and all levels of government to implement our community response to COVID-19. 

Thank you again for your ongoing patience and cooperation in keeping residents informed. Please continue to visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus

March 26, 2020 at 2:30pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

The situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve quickly, with new developments and new announcements daily from all levels of government.

We continue to be grateful for media’s help in getting reliable, timely information out to our residents.  

As of this morning, OPH is investigating 51 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

We also shared the sad news late yesterday afternoon about Ottawa’s first COVID-19 related death.

The individual was a man in his 90s who was living at home. He developed a fever on March 15th. He was seen in the emergency department of The Ottawa Hospital and admitted on March 20 and died on March 25, 2020. As with other people diagnosed with COVID-19, OPH will not be discussing any further details in order to protect personal health information.

We continue to get questions about self-isolation. I want to reinforce that the information on our website provides clear guidelines.

Returning travelers MUST self-isolate and self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days. DO NOT go shopping for groceries or supplies. Have those purchased for you by a friend, family or neighbour or use a delivery service.

If you are self-isolating and develop symptoms or if you are awaiting test results for COVID-19, you must stay home. Do not leave your home except to seek medical treatment for escalating symptoms.

If you are self-isolating and do not have symptoms, we want you to do everything you can to remain healthy and part of that involves, getting fresh air and exercise. Therefore, if you don’t have symptoms, it’s okay to go for a walk outside, but at all times, you must maintain a distance of at least 2 meters from anyone you may encounter on your walk.

I was happy to see this message reinforced by Health Minister Hajdu yesterday during a press conference and by Dr. Theresa Tam on Twitter last night. We want you to stay healthy and be able to go outside to get some fresh air, while practicing physical distancing.

Also, please remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after any outdoor excursion or activity.

It’s important to remember that while those most at risk of severe complications from COVID-19 are older adults and those with underlying health conditions, I want to reiterate that COVID19 does not discriminate. We can expect serious illness across all age categories, and everyone has a role when it comes to physical/social distancing.

We know this situation is causing stress and anxiety in our community. I’m happy to share with you that OPH has added a new section on our coronavirus webpage to make it easier for residents to find mental health resources in our community.

We also recognize that the volume of new information can be overwhelming. Please note that the team at Ottawa Public Health is continuously updating our website and messaging to provide residents with the latest and most reliable information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones and maintain their health.

Thank you again for your ongoing patience and cooperation in keeping residents informed. Please continue to visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus 

March 24, 2020 at 2:15pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

We know many residents are heeding the advice to stay at home and limit non-essential outings, and I am grateful that they are following public advice. I recognize that this is a difficult time for all of us, and the unpredictability can be stressful. Thank you to everyone in our community for their cooperation during this unprecedented response. The actions you are taking will affect not only you, but also your loved ones and our most vulnerable.

Firstly, I want to ensure that everyone heard the news that The Ontario Ministry of Health has a new enhanced self-assessment tool online.  If you think you have coronavirus symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use this online self-assessment to help determine how to seek further care and receive recommendations to either continue physical (social) distancing or self-isolate.

Moving forward, you will also begin to hear the use of the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.”  This language is beginning to be used around the world and is clearer about what we are recommending to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  We want residents to keep a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others, but not to disconnect socially.  It is very important during this time, that we maintain social connections to support our mental health; however, these social connections with people outside your household should be done through phone calls and other technology as much as possible.   

Regarding gathering more information on whether people are adhering to social distancing.  In the short term, we are using more traditional means: we are planning a population survey, through a phone survey that will be implemented in the next few days.  We are exploring all options to use technology to assist with the response, but have no plans to implement cell phone proximity tracking or social media mining. Exploring some of these options would need to be done in a transparent way to be sure that privacy is protected and there is evidence the tools work the way we’d want them to.

As of this morning, OPH is investigating 25 confirmed cases and 13 indeterminate cases.  We anticipate this number will continue to increase as more people are exposed to the virus in our community and are getting tested. 

Regarding testing, we are actively working with our laboratory and health care partners to improve their wait times to receiving results.  Currently we are hearing that the average wait time for results is 7 days. We are working with our healthcare partners to ramp up their efforts to process samples locally as part of a more sustainable model.   We appreciate your patience and request that you not call Ottawa Public Health for test results. If you are tested at the Assessment Centre, please follow their guidance on how to receive your results through their on-line mechanisms.

For those individuals that have received testing and need clarity while they are waiting for results, the guidance is consistent with what we are recommending for self-isolation.  For example:

  • If you got tested because you had symptoms, regardless of travel history, you need to stay in isolation for 14 days or until 24 hours after your symptoms clear up (whichever is longer); or
  • If your symptoms escalate beyond what you can manage at home, go to the emergency department - regardless of if you have been tested. Testing is not treatment. We want to ensure people that need care, get care. 

Thank you for continuing to share this information and please visit our website regularly for the latest updates: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.  

 March 23, 2020 at 2:30pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health 

It has been another busy start to our week as the information, and measures at all levels of government in response to this pandemic, are changing rapidly. We are working around the clock to provide information to the public as soon as possible. 

As of this morning, OPH is investigating 22 confirmed cases and 11 indeterminate cases. I know there is always a lot of interest in how many confirmed cases are in our community, but we know that these cases are really only one small part of the COVID-19 response.  As I mentioned yesterday, we now have laboratory confirmation of community spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ottawa and that there could be up to 4,000 cases in Ottawa. I want to take the time to help people understand how we determine these estimates.

Researchers at the University of Toronto developed a model that describes COVID-19 transmission based on a model that was used in 2009 for H1N1 pandemic planning in Canada. This model tries to take into account that:

  • In addition to diagnosed cases, there are/will be cases that go undetected because they have no symptoms, or only mild symptoms;
  • Symptomatic and asymptomatic cases contribute to spread; and
  • Coronavirus infection spreads at different rates depending on several factors (i.e. age, number of contacts, asymptomatic vs. symptomatic, etc.).

The model is used as a planning tool, to help predict healthcare resources needed, and potential positive impacts of strategies, such as physical (social) distancing and school closures. It helps us make comparisons between types of interventions versus no interventions. It is approximate, and daily numbers will fluctuate. For example, the model shouldn’t be used to say we will have X number of cases on March 23 or June 10; it should be used to see how interventions may impact estimated number of cases over time.

The model estimates, based on having 27 diagnosed cases on Sunday, that there are between 200 and 4,000 total diagnosed and undiagnosed cases in Ottawa now. We released the number publicly to help raise awareness that COVID-19 is in our community, and to communicate that we all need to do our part to slow down transmission of infection by limiting our contact with others.  We just received an updated model, so we are still working to understand how to apply that to the current situation in Ottawa.

The model isn’t going to give us perfect numbers that I can provide into the future, because interventions are changing.  Instead, we are continuing to work on data sources that will give us a better picture of what is happening in our community.  For example, we are looking at emergency room visits for fever and cough, we are looking at ways to ask people to report to us if they have fever and cough in the community.  We also want more information on whether people are adhering to physical (social) distancing guidance in our community.  All of the additional information sources we are building will help build a better picture and more precise projections of where we are at on the “curve” of infections in our community.

We will continue to share more information about the number of estimated infections in the community as our surveillance systems evolve. We are working toward adding this information on our website so it is available to the public and the media, and importantly to our health system partners as this information helps them with health system planning over the next several months.  

Given this information about community spread, we all need to be vigilant to continue physical (social) distancing.  Now is not the time for non-essential excursions outside the home or for having friends and family over to visit. Overall, physical (social) distancing means to limit the total number of people you come in close contact with; ideally you are able to limit your contact to only people within your household. Limit contact with everyone outside your household unless you have essential work, or if you need important support from one other person. 

So this means, that you should only be connecting with friends and family virtually and to limit how often you go to the grocery store.  When you do go outside of your homes, to go for a walk or to get groceries, keep at least 2 metres distance apart from others.  Parks remain open, but we ask that you do not congregate in parks, on sports fields, courts and playgrounds – again all to limit your close contacts with anyone outside your household.  Essentially, physical (social) distancing and keeping two meters distance from others applies to all setting when other people are around.

The additional measures announced earlier today by the province of Ontario, that there will be a mandatory closure of all non-essential work places, will help limit these non-essential outings.  We will be working with our City colleagues to determine local implications, but please be reassured that we will have access to food, utilities and essential products.  In my statement yesterday, I encouraged that people should not visit non-essential businesses including but not limited to clothing retail stores, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlours, gym and fitness facilities, banquet halls and conference centres; we will share the list of businesses permitted to stay open once released tomorrow by the province. 

Many people are returning home from travel and will need groceries and essential items. It is imperative that all returning travellers self-isolate for 14 days.  If you are self-isolating it means that; groceries and essential items should be picked up by a family member or friend, or acquired through on-line ordering options.

We are working with the airport to ensure all travellers are aware of this information about self-isolation.  Having a COVID-19 test result or not does not change the actions that individuals in the community need to take now. If you have travelled or are ill with a respiratory illness, stay home – and for all of us, now is the time to limit our interactions with others outside of our household as much as possible. 

We continue to have many questions about what self-isolation actually means. Self-isolation means you need to stay home and avoid contact with others.

  • Do not use public transportation;
  • Do not go to work or school or the grocery store;
  • Stay in a separate room away from other people in your home as much as possible and use a separate bathroom if you have one; and
  • If you are in a room with other people, keep a distance of at least two meters from others and wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

People who are self-isolating, and who do not have symptoms, can continue to go outside for a walk or to a local greenspace; however, I can’t say this enough - they should not gather with others and it is essential they keep 2 metres away from others.  It is important that individuals who are self-isolating have no contact with anyone other than household members. Guidance for residents who are self-isolating is available on our website, as well as information about cleaning your home, personal hygiene, laundry and waste disposal. 

Thank you for continuing to share this information and please visit our website regularly for the latest updates: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus

March 22, 2020 at 2:30pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health
Ottawa Public Health now has laboratory confirmation of community spread of  the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ottawa. Additionally, we are starting to see cases among health-care workers who have not traveled or been a close contact of a confirmed case . Based on modelling data, there could now be up to 4,000 undetected cases of COVID-19 in our community.

Because most cases are mild and undetected, Ottawa Public Health is urging everyone to practice social distancing. More information on social distancing for you and your family can be found on our website.

Our efforts are needed as a community. The actions you take will affect not only you but your loved ones and our most vulnerable. While we appreciate that people are thinking of their loved ones, now is not the time to visit them in person. Luckily, we have technology on our side which enables us to communicate in other creative ways like video chats and group phone calls.

Now is also not the time for non-essential excursions. We are working with the City of Ottawa to provide greater clarity on what we consider non-essential vs essential businesses here in Ottawa. People should not visit non-essential businesses including but not limited to clothing retail stores, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlours, gym and fitness facilities, banquet halls and conference centres.

Many people are returning home from March Break travel and will need groceries and essential items. It is imperative that all returning travellers self-isolate for 14 days, so groceries and essential items should be picked up by a family member or friend, or through on-line ordering options. Visit our website for further guidance on self-isolation. We have been working with the Ottawa International Airport to ensure this is being communicated clearly to returning travellers.

Social distancing is important for everyone at this time, but especially important for members of our older adult community and our most vulnerable. Here are some ways that you and your family can practise social distancing: 

  • Talk to your supervisor, manager, or employer about the possibility of working from home where possible 
  • Avoid visiting elderly friends or relatives. Use the telephone, video chats or social media to stay connected unless the visit is absolutely essential. 
  • Avoid all non-essential trips in the community 
  • Keep the windows down if you have to go into the community for an essential trip via taxi or rideshare 
  • Cancel group gatherings and limit your contact to as few people as possible Hold virtual meetings or get-togethers  
  • Spend time outside and in settings where people can maintain a two-metre (six feet) distance from each other 

Our community partners are working together through the City’s Human Needs Task Force for those requiring assistance. The Good Companions are offering Seniors Centre Without Walls, where seniors can dial in and partake in a virtual centre with activities. The Ottawa Food Bank and community food banks are all working hard to ensure food is still available to those that need it. For more information on how to connect to these wonderful services, residents can call 2-1-1.

Information is changing rapidly and we are working around the clock to provide information to the public as soon as possible. Please continue to share this information and visit our website regularly for the latest updates: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus

March 18, 2020 at 4:30pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health
Dear residents of the City of Ottawa,

The past week has seen a very quick escalation from all levels of government in response to the COVID-19 situation. I want to publicly respond to a few common questions and concerns to help provide clarity on our approach at the local level.

As a reminder, please visit our website OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for local information about COVID-19, including assessment and testing in Ottawa, self-isolation and social distancing. Due to high call volumes please try to not call unless you have read the website first.

Testing and Assessment

The present goals of testing for COVID-19 are to detect the virus in our community and also limit the spread of the virus. Lab testing helps us estimate cases in the community. For each laboratory-confirmed case related to travel, there is a likelihood that at least an equal number of travel-related cases are undetected. Based on current confirmed cases, whose onset of illness is in the past, there could potentially be anywhere between 200 to 1000 undetected cases in the community now. We do not yet have laboratory-confirmed community spread, though we do see cases giving rise to cases in close contacts. 

With this information, I am communicating to all people in Ottawa that we need to act as if the virus is here, circulating in our community.

The testing isn’t able to track down each case in our community because the mild illness the majority of people experience is not distinguishable from common colds and we cannot test large numbers. Having a COVID-19 test result or not does not change the actions that individuals in the community need to take – if ill with a respiratory illness, stay home – and for all of us, now is the time to limit our interactions with others as much as possible.

The current COVID-19 testing provides a pulse check and helps us make decisions about our next steps to control the spread of COVID-19. It also helps limit spread COVID-19 by the highest risk cases. Self-isolation and social distancing are effective strategies for slowing the spread at the community level.

Check our website to learn more about when to self-isolate and when to go for testing: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus. You do not need a referral from Ottawa Public Health to get tested for COVID-19. At a high level:

If you are a return traveler (including travel to the United States of America) OR have MILD symptoms – you MUST self-isolate. Most people with MILD symptoms will recover at home with no issues. You are helping limit the spread of the virus by staying at home.

For now (this may change), our priority is to test people with escalating symptoms AND travel history within 14 days OR close contact with someone with COVID-19.

We are also prioritizing ruling out COVID-19 in workers, such as health-care workers or Long-Term Care Homes.

In the future, the goals of COVID-19 testing are likely to shift towards being used to limit outbreaks in settings of high risk. The focus of testing would turn to health care and essential workers, hospitalized patients, long-term care homes, correctional facilities and other situations where the result is helpful to direct public health actions.

Social Distancing

Social distancing refers to creating physical distance between ourselves so that we can limit the spread of the virus. Social distancing by all is IMPERATIVE to limit transmission in the community, to protect vulnerable populations and outbreaks in institutions. We must “flatten the curve” so we don’t see spikes in cases. By this, I mean that we want to slow down transmission of the virus and lessen the number of cases in the community that happen at the same time, so that our health system continues to work properly. Having a sharp increase of cases in a small timeframe will overload our healthcare resources and have more severe impacts on our community. Social distancing is important for everyone at this time, but especially important for our older adult community (55+). Do NOT gather in groups of 10 or more. Practice social distancing.

Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. Check in with others by phone or other technology. Check in with yourself. It’s ok not to be ok. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311 if needed.

Case Management and Privacy

We have received many questions from people who feel they are at risk, including many people expressing concern about being in the same location as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who may have symptoms of COVID-19.

I would like to clarify a few points:

  • Given the transmission of COVID-19, we are all at risk. Social distancing, proper hand hygiene, not touching your face and self-isolation (when directed) are the best ways to reduce your personal risk at this time.
  • A close contact of a case of COVID-19, is someone who has lived with, provided care for, or spent longer periods of time with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Case and contact management is a role of public health to help identify who may have been in close contact with a confirmed case. Ottawa Public Health will contact you directly if you have been identified as a close contact.
  • OPH works closely with each confirmed case of COVID-19 to create a list of close contacts that require follow-up. If you have been contacted by Ottawa Public Health, follow the advice provided to you by the nurse.
  • If you have not been contacted by Ottawa Public Health, please do not assume that you are a close contact. Continue to take social distancing and other precautions and, if needed based on the guidance on OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus, follow self-isolation or testing directions.

Regarding privacy, Ottawa Public Health will not comment about any specifics around an individual case of COVID-19. We encourage others to not pursue this information unless an individual issues their own statement to this effect. Ottawa Public Health will contact you directly if you are a close contact.

The reportable information that we are required to share with the Ministry of Health, and which is on their website:

  • Patient age and gender
  • Transmission (community, travel or close contact)
  • Status (self-isolating, hospitalized, etc.)
  • Fraud concerns

I have been made aware that certain residents have received a phone call asking for credit card information from Ottawa Public Health (OPH). OPH (or any health unit) will not ask you for credit card information. Do not give your credit card information out if you receive a call or message similar to this. Fraudulent activity during a situation like this is deplorable. I encourage you to report it to Ottawa Police Services. 

Gratitude

Thank you to all residents of the City of Ottawa for your ongoing patience and cooperation. We are all in this together, and we need everyone to do their part- whether providing an essential service or staying inside – to be able to slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in our community and protect our health system and loved ones who depend on it.

Dr. Vera Etches

Medical Officer of Health

Ottawa Public Health  

March 16, 2020 at 6:00pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health
On March 16, 2020, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Ministry of Health, has now advised cancelling events or gatherings over 50 people because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also advised the following establishments should close temporarily (until further notice):

  • Recreation programs
  • Libraries
  • Churches and other faith settings
  • In person dine-in restaurants and bars - NOTE: except for food establishments that offer take out and/or delivery services
  • All childcare centres, licensed home childcare and Early ON Child and Family centres

Other establishments also strongly recommended by Ottawa Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, include:

  • Nightclubs and after-hours bars
  • Movie Theatres
  • Concert and indoor live-entertainment venues
March 15, 2020 at 8:15pm - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health
Following the first travel-related case detected in Ottawa last week, and with increased access to testing through the out-of-hospital COVID-19 Assessment Centre that opened on Friday, we now have 10 confirmed cases in our City. It is likely that there are more undetected travel-related cases that have gone on to cause local transmission of the virus in Ottawa. These cases are related to travel that occurred in the past when travel restrictions and the Federal Government’s advice for all international travelers to self-isolate for 14 days were not in place. Given the estimate that one case is likely to cause about two more, and the doubling time is 4-5 days, there could now be hundreds to even a thousand cases in the community now.

Therefore, I am asking all people in Ottawa to increase their practices of social distancing. This means limiting non-essential trips out of the home and making efforts to maintain a distance of 1 to 2 metres from other people as much as possible. We are asking people to, if possible, keep their children home from daycare and to check with their employers about options for working from home or implementing social distancing at work.

These guidelines are not meant to say “you must stay in your home!”

You can still go outside to take a walk, go to the park, or walk your dog. If you need groceries, go to the store. We simply recommend that while outside you make sure to avoid crowds and maintain a distance of 1 to 2 metres (3-6 feet) from those around you.

I know there will be many questions and significant hardship associated with implementation of these measures. They are necessary to limit COVID-19 transmission in our community.  We each need to do our part to ensure that our healthcare providers have the capacity to provide life saving measures for all, and to care for the most vulnerable people. Social distancing measures can make a huge difference to slow the rapid spread of illness.

While you may not feel sick, please be mindful of the members of our community who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. We are all in this together.

The Ottawa Public Health website has been updated with information about social distancing to provide further guidance to the public. Information is changing rapidly and we are working to provide this information to the public as soon as possible. Please continue to share this information. We will share what is happening in our community on our website.

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The current status of COVID-19 in Ottawa

For more information on the current situation in Ottawa visit our Statistic page.

Stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 developments by following Ottawa Public Health on Twitter and Facebook.

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What is the situation in the municipalities surrounding the Ottawa area?

For more information on the situation in your municipality, please visit your local public health unit’s website:

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Status of COVID-19 in Ontario

To learn about COVID-19 cases in Ontario and how the province is keeping it’s people safe please visit COVID-19 Ontario webpage 

Businesses, services and public spaces are reopening on a regional basis as progress is made in the fight against COVID-19. For further details see Framework for Reopening our Province: Stage 3.

The Ontario government is opening provincial parks and conservation reserves, for more information visit Ontario parks webpage  

Ontario provides a more detailed summary of COVID-19 cases in the province that is updated each day at 10:30 a.m. and posted on its COVID-19 web page.

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Status of COVID-19 in Canada

For more information on the federal response, please visit the Government of Canada COVID-19 webpage.

An official global travel advisory  to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada is in effect until further notice. In addition, a pandemic COVID-19 travel health notice with travel health advice for Canadians has also been issued.

Some regional travel restrictions may be in place within Canada, please check with the region before travelling.

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