March 4, 2021 – Update from Dr. Vera Etches
Ottawa remains in the Orange – Restrict zone according to the latest trends in our monitoring indicators. Our collective goal is to reduce COVID-19 rates to be able to move to fewer restrictions under the provincial framework and less pressure on the healthcare system. However, rates are no longer decreasing and we are close to “red” category thresholds. The wastewater signal in particular has been increasing for over a week, suggesting more people are shedding the virus, perhaps unknowingly posing a risk of transmission to others.
I want to continue to thank Ottawa residents for working hard to keep numbers at a manageable level.
I also need to stress that we must not let up our actions that prevent COVID-19 transmission; we need to keep the protective measures currently in place to protect people from severe illness and death. Yes, vaccination of populations most at-risk is underway, and every day we’re turning another page on our COVID-19 story. But we’re not at the end yet. As we wait for more vaccines, we see the presence of more transmissible variants in the community.
The number of people positive for COVID-19 who have been confirmed by genetic sequencing to have a variant of concern remains 10. However, the number that have screened positive for an initial genetic indicator of a variant of concern has increased over the month to 73 now. These screen positives are likely to be confirmed as a variant of concern when the genetic sequencing is complete which could give a total as high as 83 people with a variant of concern. The stricter we are with our preventive behaviours, the better we can avoid a rapid rise in all types of COVID-19.
All of us – including those who have been vaccinated – need to keep up with the measures we know stop transmission: sticking with your household contacts, maintaining a distance from others, wearing a mask and washing your hands. If you do decide to visit with people outside of your household, there are ways to reduce the risk of transmission: stay outdoors, maintain distance, wear a mask and keep visits short.
I also want to thank people who have adhered to isolation and case management instructions. If you are contacted by a public health nurse because you tested positive for COVID-19 or if you are a close contact of someone who tested positive, please adhere to the advice the public health nurse gives you. If you have questions or concerns, contact your nurse. They are there to support you. Each time someone who is a high-risk contact stays isolated they are helping to prevent the COVID-19 rate from growing in our community.
And a reminder to parents and guardians that daily screening is still required before sending children to school. If your child, or anyone in the household, has one symptom of COVID-19, testing is strongly encouraged. And before and after school and on weekends, all family members will help prevent COVID-19 transmission by limiting close contacts with people outside of the household.
My thanks to workplaces, also, who are ensuring daily screening of all employees. Access to test results for people checking whether their symptom is caused by COVID-19 or not at an Assessment Centre continues to be speedy, with 71 per cent of results reported in less than 24 hours and 96 per cent of results reported in less than 48 hours.
Changes to Ottawa Public Health’s Daily COVID-19 Dashboard
As always, we’ll continue to provide the public with updates about how Ottawa is doing based on local indicators and metrics found on our Daily COVID-19 Dashboard on OttawaPublicHealth.ca.
And speaking of our dashboard, I know many of our media partners keep a close eye on those numbers for their daily reporting. Over the next few weeks, you may notice some minor and temporary visual changes while we migrate to the provincial COVID Case Management reporting system.
Starting March 10, some graphics will be unavailable for approximately six weeks, including the source of infection graphs, and contact tracing metrics. Rest assured that this information will continue to be tracked during case management and will be available on the dashboard again once the database migration is complete.
The migration will create efficiencies, allow OPH to be connected with the provincial database for all Ontario cases, tap into a wider network of provincially trained staff and lean on centralized software development and management.
OPH has continued to make additions and improvements to its dashboard since it was launched last spring, and it will continue to evolve and adapt according to public needs. Thank you in advance for your patience.
We’re getting a little bit closer to the end of this pandemic every day. Ottawa, I want you to know that I am hopeful. We still have many months of work ahead and we should not feel helpless; we know what to do to prevent transmission while we wait for vaccines to be ready for the general public. We have gotten through a year of this pandemic and 85 per cent of the population has avoided getting COVID-19.
Last week, various organizations across Eastern Ontario devoted to mental health launched AccessMHA, a new single point of entry into eastern Ontario’s system of care for mental health, substance use and addictions.
Anyone who is 16 years of age or older can fill out a form at AccessMHA.ca and book a time for a confidential conversation with a mental health and addictions professional. That professional will work the client to assess their needs and goals, then connect them to the service that is the best fit for them from a network of partner organizations across the community. Services might include individual and group counselling, psychotherapy, psychiatric consultation, substance treatment programs, or peer support.
I’d like to acknowledge and congratulate the work of our partners in this important milestone in the Ottawa Community Action Plan in providing better access to mental health and addictions services, at a time when these services are needed the most.
And as always, you can find more mental health resources on OPH’s website.
Let’s not let our guards down now. We will see this through together.
Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.
Ottawa Public Health
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