Memo from Dr. Vera Etches – April 2, 2021
As you may be aware, this afternoon the Province of Ontario announced that it is imposing a provincewide emergency brake as a result of an alarming surge in case numbers and COVID-19 hospitalizations across the province. The provincewide emergency brake will be effective Saturday, April 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. and the provincial government intends to keep this in place for at least four weeks.
Given continued COVID-19 infections in the City of Ottawa, this announcement is welcome as more actions are needed to reduce the spread/transmission of COVID-19. Ottawa Public Health continues to report daily new numbers in the triple digits when it comes to people testing positive for COVID-19. The rate has doubled in the last two weeks since we moved to Red-Control level of the provincial framework. That move has not turned the curve.
If we do not get the levels of COVID-19 back under control, we will see stronger lockdowns like we’ve seen in other countries around the world, and for longer. We will see more businesses suffer. We will see our health care system once again become overwhelmed. We will see people in hospital hallways on stretchers. Health care workers won’t be able to come into work because their children are waiting for a COVID test result. We are already tapping into an exhausted health care sector and we only have so many trained staff available to test, contact trace, vaccinate, and treat.
The places COVID spreads the most continue to be private gatherings such as parties, barbecues and after-work get-togethers and team sports, even outdoors, where public health measures like physical distancing and mask wearing are not followed.
The higher the rate of COVID in the community now, the longer it will take for vaccines to make an impact. For the next few months, we need to keep up with public health measures.
The provincewide emergency brake would put in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures to help to stop the rapid transmission of COVID-19 variants in communities, protect hospital capacity and save lives. Measures include, but are not limited to:
- Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a 5-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.
- Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures;
- Prohibiting personal care services;
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only;
- Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions;
- Requiring day camps to close; and,
- Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.
On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, all Ontarians are asked to limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable community members, or exercising outdoors with members of their household. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home. More information regarding what is and is not permitted can be found on the provincial website.
This weekend is the Easter long weekend. Do not gather with people you don’t live with except for essential caregivers or if you live alone. Do not gather with friends or extended family indoors. Do not share meals. Focus on outdoor activities where you can maintain distance from others you don’t live with and wear a mask. While the outdoors reduces the risk of transmission, it does not remove the risk entirely.
We must continue to limit contacts and interactions, stay home as much as possible and especially if sick, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene and get tested if you think you may be infected.
Thank you for your continued support.
Dr. Vera Etches
Medical Officer of Health
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