Ontario’s stay-at-home order is now in place for at least four weeks, keeping people home except for essential reasons.
Effective Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government issued a province-wide Stay-at-Home order requiring everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise , or for work that cannot be done remotely.
Dr Vera Etches’ April 9th Update
As I indicated to the Province on Monday, the COVID situation in Ottawa is extremely concerning and we need further restrictions to bend the curve. Hospitalizations are at an all-time high since the beginning of the pandemic and surgeries are being cancelled for the first time since last March. Younger people are being admitted to hospital. More people than ever are testing positive for COVID-19. We are no longer able to maintain contact tracing follow-ups with high-risk contacts in settings outside of schools and congregate or healthcare. And variants of concern are now established and making up the majority of the virus detected in Ottawa’s wastewater.
We are seeing transmission across Ottawa in a variety of settings including workplaces, restaurant patios, in breakrooms, at after-work gatherings, parties, carpools and sleepovers. It is simple: The risk exists wherever people from different households gather and protective measures are not being followed, namely physical distancing and masking.
I want to remind everyone that this virus is tricky; not everyone with COVID-19 will have symptoms. That is why even if you are feeling fine, you still must follow the prevention measures in place – again, namely masking and distancing – when you are around others outside your household. That includes people you know, love and trust – friends, extended family, colleagues and neighbours.
One of our main goals has always been to keep schools open. There are harms associated with closing schools. This includes impacts on mental health for all members of the family, stress and financial impacts for parents and caregivers who can’t afford childcare and developmental impacts on children and youth who are missing out on important social connections.
It is therefore with a heavy heart that I am now thinking the probability that schools will close to in-person learning following the spring break is higher than the probability that the COVID-19 situation will improve in time to keep schools open.
There have been new school outbreaks this week, but the overall number of outbreaks has remained fairly stable and it is still a minority of schools that are affected by people testing positive. Public health and school staff are working hard to manage the growing number of people exposed in the community who are then positive in schools.
However, context that has changed this week includes:
- The level of COVID-19 in the community has continued to grow to levels higher than we have seen, demonstrated by the wastewater signal continuing its steep climb; and
- the percent of people testing positive has reached new heights in adults, with some people having to wait to access testing.
- Also, a provincial Stay At Home Order came into effect yesterday, which closes the malls and places that students may have gathered if not in school, so this risk is mitigated.
This leads me to give notice of a school closure being more likely than not following the spring break, as we need to do everything we can to turn this curve. The team will continue to review the situation and provide confirmation of a decision by Wednesday of next week at the latest. Other countries have consistently added school closures to strict lockdown measures to bring numbers down. Closing schools will underline the seriousness of the situation and assist people to stay at home as much as possible, reducing mixing of students before and after school.
Letter of Instruction
In addition to the new provincial restrictions, I am issuing a Letter of Instruction to all employers, businesses and organizations permitted to be open to take the additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 effective Saturday, April 10 at 5 am.
These new measures include:
- increased reporting requirements when two or more people test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection to the workplace;
- ensuring that all employees are aware of any benefits and/or pay to which they may be entitled in the event that they must isolate; and
- Requirements to actively monitor and manage capacity limits in businesses, and physical distancing and masking in outdoor line ups as people wait to access the business. At minimum one staff person must be designated to monitor and manage the applicable capacity limit and verify compliance with the physical distancing and mask-wearing requirements of individuals in line-ups.
- Documentation of how your workplace will do this, is required in your workplace COVID-19 safety plan
Full details of this letter can be found on ottawapublichealth.ca.
The Province of Ontario announced the extension of vaccine appointments at community clinics to residents aged 50 and older who live in certain “hot spots”. These are large geographic areas that have more advantaged and less advantaged populations within them.
As Medical Officer of Health, I have the authority to further focus on neighbourhoods, based on local considerations of who is at greatest risk of COVID-19. Therefore, we will continue to focus future pop-up clinics, walk-in options and mobile strategies in the high-priority neighbourhoods previously identified.
Our primary goal is to protect the people most at risk for hospitalization and death as a result of COVID-19. This strategy helps to prevent hospitalizations and deaths when vaccine doses are still limited. We must continue to protect people over 60 across Ottawa, people over 55 through pharmacies and people over 50 in neighbourhood-based approaches, as the majority of people being hospitalized are still older adults.
In addition to the neighbourhoods of focus in Phase 1, the City and OPH are reviewing data for other neighbourhoods which may also be disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 and considerations will be made for support to other communities as the vaccine rollout continues.
You’ve heard the COVID-19 response referred to as a marathon, not a sprint. Looking back to when this started, I think we can all see that now. We have been “training” for more than a year. We are tired, fatigued and we want this to be over.
This is the point in our COVID marathon where we are hitting the wall.
This is our defining moment. The moment we break through the wall by taking one careful step at a time. The moment we dedicate each step to getting us toward the end of this.
We will not give up. We will not fall. Vaccines are our fuel, and so are our behaviours. And those, together, are what will get us across that finish line.
Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.
You may watch the recording of today’s media availability at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs79GJ9s1xE
We encourage you to share these links with community members and within your respective channels.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ottawahealth
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/OttawaHealth
Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.
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