ADDENDUM to December 16th’s special statement
Dr. Etches’ Special Statement from December 17th media availability is available here and copied below.
Yesterday, December 16th, we reported that an additional 199 individuals in Ottawa have tested positive for COVID-19. Today, we are reporting 309 new cases. The rapid increase in people testing positive for COVID-19 in our community is deeply concerning. Omicron is present in Ottawa and spreading rapidly. As with other variants of COVID-19, hospitalizations and deaths are a lagging indicator, we can expect to see the impact on local hospitals in the coming weeks. The best science we have from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table is showing we are on the worst possible curve in terms of the rate of people testing positive – and this would be followed by hospitalizations that will be hard to handle unless we take action. As the Science Advisory Table stated yesterday, waiting to take action means waiting until it is too late to take action.
That is why today, as Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health I am issuing a Letter of Instruction (LOI) to businesses with directions for additional and immediate action to further limit the spread of COVID-19 to protect our residents and reduce the potential impact on our health care resources, and essential services.
Effective Monday, December 20, 2021, at 12:01 am, and until further notice, capacity limits and physical distancing requirements will be reinstated in Ottawa. The following settings will have capacity and physical distancing requirements reinstated to 50 per cent, regardless of requirements to check proof of vaccination.
Impacted settings include:
- Meeting and event spaces, including conference centres and convention centres
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities
- Personal care services, such as hair salons, barber shops, beauty salons, piercing services, tattoo studios
- Indoor recreational amenities and indoor facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities, including areas for spectators within those facilities
- Indoor clubhouses affiliated with outdoor recreational amenities
- Indoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas
- Museums, galleries and similar attractions
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
- Indoor fairs, rural exhibitions, festival and similar events
- Faith-based organizations and Places of worship
The total number of members of the public permitted to be in an indoor portion of the space at any one time must be limited to the number that can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the business or facility. In addition, these spaces must not exceed 50 per cent capacity.
There will also be additional requirements for businesses and organizations that serve food and beverages. New requirements include:
- That patrons be seated at all times when consuming food or drink;
- And no more than six individuals are allowed per table.
In addition to the guidance set out in the LOI, Ottawa Public Health is calling on all local employers and businesses to support employees working from home, if possible, and not to ask employees to return to a physical location for the time being.
More details regarding the Letter of Instruction are included on our Ottawa Public Health website.
We are anticipating hearing more information from the Province this afternoon And we will provide further updates to Ottawa residents if the situation is changing. Certainly, if the Province comes out with similar recommendations, that’s positive – we think they’re needed in Ottawa, that’s why I’m speaking to you today. And if there are more restrictions, the stronger the measure will apply.
Further to the LOI, as your Medical Officer of Health I am asking each and every Ottawa resident for their cooperation and support in the coming weeks. I am strongly recommending and urging that everyone in Ottawa:
- Keep gatherings as small as possible
- Limit the number of people you come into close contact with
- Suspend participation in all indoor sports and team play for the time being
- Not attend large venues and avoid crowds. If you do choose to attend an event, wear a mask at all times
It was an extremely difficult decision to issue a Letter of Instruction at this time. There are significant impacts for businesses and individuals and we know this will cause additional stress during one of the busiest times of the year. We ask for everyone’s cooperation to support businesses, employees and patrons during this stressful time. You can support them by making purchases online including gift cards, that would be appreciated.
I recognize that there are significant delays in people being able to access testing. The spread of Omicron has overwhelmed our region’s testing resources. The Testing Taskforce is working diligently with partners to develop solutions. However, testing capacity will not keep up with this surge in COVID-19. We know we don’t need a test to protect others. If you have symptoms, you should assume you have COVID-19 and self-isolate. Similarly, your household members need to isolate regardless of your vaccination status.
If you have been tested and are waiting for test results, isolate until you receive a negative result. Do not attend school, sports or extracurricular activities while waiting for test results. Interacting with others, and not following public health guidance can have significant ripple impacts on others in the community.
In addition to taking these actions, we are still encouraging everyone to get their first, second or third dose of vaccine. We know the demand is extremely high and we are doing everything we can to open more appointments, increase capacity and vaccinate everyone who is eligible as soon as possible.
To date, over 121,000 third doses have been administered to Ottawa residents. On Monday, an additional 634,000 people in Ottawa 18 years and older will be eligible for a third dose. While we can’t completely meet the demand yet, it gives me great hope that so many individuals are actively seeking to protect themselves and their families through vaccination. We ask residents of Ottawa for their patience and understanding this weekend and in the following days as we work as fast as possible to meet the demand. The reality is that on Monday for the newly eligible 18+ population, there will likely be no or very few appointments available. Please follow Ottawa Public Health announcements on our website and on social media for the latest information on available appointments.
I acknowledge that today’s news is extremely difficult to hear, as it is to announce. If you are struggling, or need someone to talk to, I encourage you to reach out. There are resources in the community available to help you 24/7.
Please don’t give up, Ottawa. We have worked so hard over the past two years to help keep each other safe. As individuals, we do have control over the choices we make and we are not helpless in the face of Omicron. This surge, like others past, will come and go and we will make it through. Please take care of yourself and others during these difficult times. Whenever possible, take time to reach out to those you love. We are tougher than we know, and we will make it through this wave.
Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.