What a week!
It has been over a year since The World Health Organization declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. This declaration brought forth an ever-evolving environment of which we now live. Sending our daily routines and “normalcy” out the window.
Over the past two weeks my office has received many emails and phone calls with inquiries or comments in relation to the current lock down and vaccination roll out. People are finding it challenging to understand some of the restrictions and directions that have been put into place. The City’s Vaccination Task Force team, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and the City’s Emergency and Protective Services staff have been working tirelessly to help clarify and answer the many questions that the Province has left us with.
When I became a City Councillor, I never expected to have to answer questions such as, “Can I go for a walk outside? or “Can my kids play in the park?” After one year into this pandemic most of us have learned the importance of keeping away from those outside our household but mixed messages and fear have left many feeling unsafe to step outside their door. Walking, biking or any moving activities are positive if you stay six feet away from others outside your household bubble and to wear a mask if this is not possible. It can’t be overemphasized that we should not be congregating with others outside of our household. We need to do this if we are going to even consider a day that we are one step ahead of the virus.
The recent announcements by the provincial government this past week left many confused and frightened. Most of us are doing our part by staying home and the ones who are not are primarily in workplaces, such as essential workers, where they have no choice but to be near others in an indoor setting.
With the province initially suggesting that expanding police enforcement would be affective, the concept of using police for random stops of cars and pedestrians, created unease. I appreciate the response to this by Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly and Mayor Jim Watson that despite the orders from the province carding would not be an option and that border crossing stops between two provinces would be onerous and unproductive. Residents have been told the need to avoid unnecessary trips. We need to respect this health order without having to be policed.
The closing of playgrounds and the later decision to recall this order caused significant confusion. Getting outside is necessary for our health, both physically and mentally. This is particularly true for children. The request from Ottawa Public Health for children to wear masks on playgrounds makes sense and aligns with school protocol. This may seem an inconvenience, but the good news is that this allows kids to play. I appreciate the recent change in direction and will continue to advocate for the need for everyone to spend quality time outdoors.
It is important to note that the prioritization of vaccination roll-out is based on provincial guidelines and that the City must follow the Province’s direction. The process is complex and the rollout for essential workers will take some time, but you will be kept informed as I receive further clarity and direction.
The good news is that you may already be eligible for a vaccine based on your age or other factors including where you live or type of job. Just this week, Ontario announced availability for everyone 40 years and older via pharmacies and primary care physicians.
OPH is encouraging everyone to take the first vaccine available to you, as this is the best defense in protecting yourself and reducing the number of cases in our community. Some of the questions that you have about the vaccine may already be answered. Please take the time to visit Ottawa Public Health.
If you have any concerns about your health in relation to the vaccine, please do not call OPH, contact your family physician or medical professional to consult.
I appreciate everyone’s patience as we get through the third wave of this pandemic. Vaccinations are progressing but the basic rules still need to be followed: wash your hands, avoid contact with those outside your household and if you cannot stay six feet away and wear a mask.
Please take care, stay safe and be CovidWise.