On Tuesday, February 16, Ottawa will transition from the shutdown measures currently in place to the revised Provincial framework. Current monitoring indicators would put us in the Orange – Restrict zone, however we have seen how quickly things can change so this is not yet a guarantee. The Province is likely to announce which zone Ottawa will transition to on Friday, February 12.
I want to thank the people of Ottawa for once again getting us to a place where we can gradually and cautiously reopen schools and some businesses. We know this hasn’t been easy. But the fact that we are in a position to slowly reopen is direct proof that our actions matter. My advice doesn’t change: we must continue with our routine behaviours that we know keep COVID-19 transmission low: wear a mask, limit close contact to the people you live with, stay two metres apart from others, stay home when you’re sick except to get tested and practice proper hand hygiene.
Next week, we will see more businesses opening. I ask you to continue to be patient when visiting businesses in person and be respectful of the public health guidelines in place.
For schools, we continue to urge parents to not mix households with other children unless it is essential for childcare. When children are not in school or childcare, they should not be in close contact with anyone outside their household – this is crucial to keeping our children healthy and in school. If you are dropping off your child at school, please keep your distance from others and be careful not to form a crowd. Wearing a mask is recommended.
We also ask that residents not travel outside the region unless it is for essential reasons. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others, especially with the presence of more transmissible variants.
Right now, our focus needs to be on what’s within our control – buying time and keeping COVID-19 levels manageable until there is enough vaccine available to all eligible residents of Ottawa who wish to receive one. This will happen, and we are making progress with almost 35,000doses administered in Ottawa to date. It will be several months until vaccines are available to the general population, and more vigorous public health measures may be required if more transmissible variants of concern take root.
Testing in schools and in the community
I want to thank parents and guardians for getting back in the habit of daily screening of children for symptoms of COVID-19 before they go to school. If your child meets the criteria, seek testing right away and ensure every member of the household stays home and self-isolates while waiting for the test results.
We will continue to work with our partners to offer onsite testing at schools, particularly to improve access to testing where there are a large number of high-risk contacts, as well as when we are seeking more information about potential transmission in a school.
Any adult in our community experiencing even just one symptom is encouraged to seek testing right away. Getting a COVID-19 test is fast, efficient and easy. Appointments for testing are often available the same or next day. Turnaround time for testing has been very quick, with 75 per cent of results received within 24 hours and 97 per cent within 48 hours. Adults can use the Workplaces and Post-Secondary Institutions screening tool.
Testing is critical to our public health response — knowing how much the virus is circulating in the community, preventing further spread and getting the virus under control will help prevent further transmission and future lockdowns.
Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDtesting for more information.
We have a few holidays coming up, including the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day and Family Day. I encourage everyone to continue coming up with creative ways to celebrate safely while remaining COVID wise and social wise.
Provincial shutdown measures and the Stay-at-Home order will still apply during these three holidays. Residents should continue to limit trips outside the home unless for essential reasons, such as getting groceries, physical activity or for medical purposes. Please do not gather with those outside your household. If you live alone, stick with your contact(s) from one other household.
It’s looking like another beautiful (albeit cold!) long weekend, so I urge you to get outside to enjoy some fresh air with members of your household. Build a snowman, go for a romantic walk or skate with your partner or enjoy one of Ottawa’s many trails, paths and outdoor rinks.
Not too late to have your say
There is still time to have your say and participate in our latest phase of online engagement with a special focus on vaccines to help us understand the benefits and challenges people are experiencing and identify behaviours and attitudes toward vaccines. A report on results will be shared in March 2021.
OPH is here to support and ensure residents have the information they need to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.
We encourage residents to have their say and share their ideas. This phase of engagement will close on February 15, 2021. Please visit engage.ottawa.ca/covid19.
Monitoring your mental health
This has been one of, if not the most, challenging time of our lives. We know the pandemic has had significant negative impacts on people’s mental health and well-being.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, now is the time to have that talk – reach out, speak to someone today. Free mental health and substance use resources can be found on our website including new information how to manage mental health during the winter months.
Everyone needs a break, including me, which is why I will be taking some time off next week to get in some extra cuddles with my boys, spend more time outside exercising, and keep connected virtually with friends and family.
Let’s continue to support one another, be kind, be safe and stay well.
Steady as she goes, Ottawa.
Thank you. Merci, Meegwetch.
Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health