What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 31

·9 min read
A family adjusts their gear at the Camp Fortune ski hill in Chelsea, Que., on Wednesday. New COVID-19 rules come into effect Friday in the Outaouais and the rest of the province, including the reintroduction of an overnight curfew. (Felix Desroches/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A family adjusts their gear at the Camp Fortune ski hill in Chelsea, Que., on Wednesday. New COVID-19 rules come into effect Friday in the Outaouais and the rest of the province, including the reintroduction of an overnight curfew. (Felix Desroches/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Ottawa Public Health is reporting 1,508 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a record high.

  • The Cornwall Community Hospital is reducing services to combat staffing shortages.

What's the latest

Ottawa is ending 2021 with a record number of cases of COVID-19.

Ottawa Public Health reported 1,508 new cases of the virus Friday, far surpassing the record highs set during the holiday season. Provincewide, another 16,713 cases of COVID-19 were logged on New Year's Eve.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

The hospital in Cornwall, Ont., says it's addressing staffing shortages created by the rapid spread of COVID-19 by reducing some of its services.

In a press release, the Cornwall Community Hospital said nearly 40 staff members have tested positive for the virus. It's temporarily reducing services in its operating rooms and will prioritize urgent surgeries. People should visit family physicians and walk-in clinics for non-urgent matters.

Also starting today, the Ontario government is limiting eligibility for publicly funded PCR tests to high-risk individuals who are symptomatic or who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Isolation rules are also changing. Vaccinated people and children under the age of 12 will only have to self-isolate for a minimum of five days following the date their symptoms started, down from 10. Household contacts will also be required to isolate alongside them.

Ontario is delaying the start of school by two days to Jan. 5, will provide N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child-care settings, and will deploy an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards.

Quebec will impose another curfew in an effort to curb the spread of Omicron, as well as closing restaurant dining rooms, delaying the reopening of schools and closing non-essential businesses on Sundays.

How many cases are there?

Testing has recently fallen behind the demand caused by Omicron, meaning some people with COVID-19 won't be reflected in the case count as quickly. Hospitalizations and the wastewater levels can help fill in some of the grey areas.

As of Friday, Ottawa has had 42,102 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

There are 7,166 known active cases, while 34,315 cases are considered resolved and 621 people have died from the illness.

Local public health officials have reported more than 84,952 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 67,037 cases now resolved. Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, 253 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 223.

Akwesasne has had more than 1,250 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had 61 cases — four confirmed as Omicron — and one death. Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg has had 52 cases and one death. Pikwàkanagàn hasn't had any cases.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

The province's private gathering limits under the threat of Omicron are 10 people indoors and 25 outside; businesses can reach 50 per cent capacity. Up to 10 people are allowed per table at a restaurant or bar.

Local officials can also introduce their own rules and that's happened in Ottawa, Renfrew County, the Belleville area and the Kingston area.

Health units for the Belleville, Kingston and Leeds,Grenville and Lanark areas are asking residents to avoid in-person gatherings, as are councils for Akwesasne, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

The province's vaccine passport is required for people age 12 and up in many public places. It won't be required for younger kids.

People can prove their vaccine status with a paper document, a PDF file or a QR code. These documents have to have a QR code as of Jan. 4 and medical exemptions have to have one by Jan. 10.

Western Quebec

Indoor gatherings involving more than one household bubble are prohibited as of 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

The province of Quebec will also implement a curfew, meaning those found outside during the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a valid reason may face fines.

All schools will remain closed until Jan. 17, but will provide remote learning wherever possible.

Likewise, restaurant dining rooms will close, as well as places of worship, except funerals with up to 25 guests.

Indoor sports have also been cancelled.

Buntola Nou/CBC
Buntola Nou/CBC

A vaccine passport is in place for most people age 13 and up in many public spaces. It won't apply to younger kids. People can use an app or show paper proof.

Other groups in the region are also coming out with their own COVID-19 vaccine policies, including for staff and visitors.

What can I do?

Prevention

COVID-19 primarily spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, even after getting a vaccine.

Scientists are working to find out more about the very fast spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, its severity and the performance of vaccines against it.

Health officials say people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting vaccinated, staying home when sick, getting tested if local circumstances allow and seeing as few people in person as possible.

Masks, preferably medical ones, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and recommended in crowded outdoor areas.

When and how long to self-isolate can vary by community, by testing availability, by the type of exposure and by vaccination status.

Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions get help with errands and have supplies in case they need to isolate.

Travel

Travellers more than 12 years and four months old must now be fully vaccinated to board a plane, train or marine vessel in Canada.

The federal government is officially advising against non-essential international travel until at least Jan. 12.

People have to be fully vaccinated and pre-approved to enter Canada and again have to test negative for COVID-19.

The U.S. requires everyone crossing a land, air or water border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a negative COVID test within a day of departure.

The hope is that other countries will accept provincial or territorial proof of vaccination.

Vaccines

Vaccines curb the spread of all variants of COVID-19 and go a long way toward avoiding deaths and hospitalizations, without offering total protection.

Four COVID-19 vaccines have been deemed safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions.

Health Canada has approved Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for children as young as five. Both local provinces generally recommend doses for kids age five to 11 be given at least eight weeks apart, with limited exceptions.

Some health units are limiting Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to those under the age of 30.

Everyone 18 and older in Ontario can now try to book third shots, though local resources don't always meet demand. The province has also shortened the interval required between second and third doses to 84 days.

People who are 60 and older can receive a third dose in Quebec, along with those who have certain health conditions.

There have been more than 4.1 million COVID-19 first, second and third vaccine doses administered in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region, which has about 2.3 million residents.

Eastern Ontario

People born in 2016 and earlier can look for provincial appointments online or over the phone at 1-833-943-3900.

Local health units have some flexibility, so check their websites for details. Many offer child-only clinics.

Pharmacies and some family doctors offer vaccines through their own booking systems.

Western Quebec

Anyone who is five and older can get an appointment or visit a permanent or mobile walk-in clinic.

Clinics for children are in schools and kids will need written consent from a parent to be vaccinated there.

Siblings can be booked together in a single time slot and parents can check a box to signal if their child is nervous.

Symptoms and testing

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, headache, vomiting and loss of taste or smell.

"Long-haul" symptoms can last for months.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help.

In eastern Ontario:

Ontario says to get tested by making an appointment at a clinic if you fit certain criteria. Check with your health unit for clinic locations and hours — some have had to triage given current demand.

Select pharmacies test people with symptoms, along with certain people without symptoms.

Rapid and take-home tests are available in malls, libraries and LCBOs (when supplies allow), Kingston-area family doctor offices, and some child-care settings when risk is high. Students get a pack of test kits for the holiday break.

A positive rapid test will trigger a follow-up.

Travellers who need a test have local options to pay for one.

In western Quebec:

Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts.

People can make an appointment or see if they're near a walk-in option online. They can also call 1-877-644-4545 with questions during hours the line is running.

Maniwaki's test site is relocating to 57 route 105 as of today.

Gargle tests are offered in some places instead of a swab.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are available in all Quebec daycares, preschools and elementary schools, as well as through pharmacies for the general population.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis:

First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a test in Ontario.

Akwesasne has COVID-19 test and vaccine clinics, with information online or at 613-575-2341.

People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call the health centre at 819-449-5593 for a test or vaccine; email is another option for vaccine booking.

Tests are available in Pikwàkanagàn by calling 613-625-1175 and vaccines (including third doses) at 613-625-2259 extension 225 or by email.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603 and should watch the website for dedicated vaccine clinics.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing and vaccines, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.

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