What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 17

·9 min read
Pedestrians on Bank Street wear masks during a snowstorm in February. Another big storm is expected to dump up to 50 centimetres in some places today, so Ottawa Public Health has decided to cancel Monday's community vaccine clinics. (Andrew Lee/CBC - image credit)
Pedestrians on Bank Street wear masks during a snowstorm in February. Another big storm is expected to dump up to 50 centimetres in some places today, so Ottawa Public Health has decided to cancel Monday's community vaccine clinics. (Andrew Lee/CBC - image credit)

Recent developments:

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reports a relatively stable COVID-19 hospitalization count, but also two more COVID deaths, and about two-thirds of children age five to 11 have at least one COVID vaccine dose.

Health Canada has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 therapeutic today for use, paving the way for the distribution of this potentially lifesaving drug at a time when the country's hospitals are overwhelmed. Ontario is expecting 10,000 courses of this treatment.

Renfrew County is the only part of the region where students in its English boards can return to in-person classes today as scheduled because of the winter storm. Some community vaccine clinics have also been cancelled.

Quebec's premier is asking government employees to volunteer to work in hospitals, as staffing shortages continue to hamper the province's health-care system.

Numbers to watch

Testing can't meet demand during the Omicron surge, meaning many people with COVID-19 won't be reflected in the case count. Hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring can help fill in some of the grey areas.

There are 65 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19, according to the Sunday update from Ottawa Public Health (OPH). Eight of these patients are in an ICU.

That number of Ottawa residents admitted to hospital for COVID-19 treatment has been stable for about a week amid an ongoing health-care staffing shortage.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

The average level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater rose for about a month to set a new record last week before starting to drop.

As of Monday, Ottawa has had 53,555 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 4,930 known active cases — a number that may actually be much higher — while 47,976 cases are considered resolved and 649 residents have died from the illness.

Local public health officials have reported more than 110,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

They list about 290 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 35 ICU patients, both numbers with recent growth led by record numbers in western Quebec. This count no longer includes the Belleville area.

In eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa, 273 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 224.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

The province's private gathering limits are five people indoors and 10 outside until at least Jan. 26.

Indoor dining, gyms and museums are among the facilities that are currently closed, while other businesses and religious services can reach 50 per cent capacity.

In-person learning is back this week, with today's planned return delayed by a winter storm in many areas. Some of the rules around case and outbreak data sharing have changed.

Local officials can also change rules, and that's happened in places like Ottawa for masks, Tyendinaga for schools and Pikwàkanagàn for businesses.

The province's vaccine passport is required to gain entry to many public places for people age 12 and up.

People can prove they've had at least two vaccine doses with a paper or digital document. These documents must have a QR code, as must any medical exemptions.

Western Quebec

Indoor gatherings involving more than one household bubble are prohibited.

Restaurant dining rooms are closed, as are places of worship except for small funerals. Indoor sports have also been cancelled.

Schools could reopen for in-person learning Monday. The province's overnight curfew and Sunday store closures have ended.

WATCH | Parents weigh options as schools prepare to reopen:

A vaccine passport is in place for most people age 13 and up in many public spaces. As of tomorrow that includes provincially run liquor and cannabis stores and as of next Monday Jan. 24, big-box stores.

People can use an app or show paper proof they have at least two doses. Quebec's health minister said earlier this month that people will eventually have to have three.

The premier has said that people who remain unvaccinated without a medical exemption will eventually have to pay a health tax.

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.

Evidence suggests the dominant Omicron variant is more contagious than other types of the novel coronavirus, but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

That level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk and is making staffing a challenge in many sectors, delaying many more medical procedures and increasing the workload of health-care staff who aren't sick or isolating.

There are signs locally and provincially that runaway spread may be slowing.

Health officials say under Omicron, people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting as many vaccine doses as they're eligible for and staying home when sick. If people are going to have social visits, they should keep them small and do it outside if possible.

Ottawa is opening more spaces for people without housing to help distance and/or isolate.

Masks, preferably medical ones, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and in Quebec for people age 10 and up. They're generally recommended in crowded outdoor areas.

Jean-Francois Benoit/Radio-Canada
Jean-Francois Benoit/Radio-Canada

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

Ontario and Quebec allow some people to self-isolate for just five days under certain circumstances.

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

The federal government is officially advising against non-essential international travel.

People have to be fully vaccinated, pre-approved and test negative to enter Canada.

The U.S. requires all adults crossing a land, air or water border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a negative COVID-19 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.

Both local provinces generally recommend doses for kids age five to 11 be given at least eight weeks apart, with limited exceptions, for the best possible protection.

Some health authorities such as in Ottawa say parents can request a shorter interval; the minimum time between doses is three weeks.

Guidance varies on when, not if, people should get a third dose after contracting COVID-19. Experts do agree people shouldn't get it until they're feeling recovered.

There have been more than 4.7 million first, second and third COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region, which has about 2.3 million residents.

Eastern Ontario

Eligible people 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, and some are offering limited walk-in vaccinations again.

Everyone 18 and older in Ontario can book third shots after 84 days have passed since their second dose. Fourth doses are being offered to select groups after the same 84-day wait.

The province has made some moves to prioritize third doses for education workers and other groups.

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

Western Quebec

Those who are eligible can get an appointment or visit a permanent or mobile walk-in clinic.

All adults are now eligible for a third dose; the general recommendation between second and third is three months.

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

Symptoms, treatment 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.

Health Canada has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 therapeutic prescription pill Paxlovid, an antiviral designed to help the body fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

"Long-haul" symptoms can last for months.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

In eastern Ontario:

Only high-risk individuals who are symptomatic or who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can get a laboratory-checked PCR test due to Omicron-fuelled demand.

Qualified people can check with their health unit for clinic locations and hours. Other people with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19 and isolate.

WATCH | How COVID-19 testing fits into Canada's present and future:

In schools, only certain students and teachers who show symptoms of COVID-19 will have access to PCR COVID tests. Rapid and take-home tests are available in some child-care settings when risk is high.

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

In western Quebec:

Quebec has also stopped giving PCR tests to the general public.

PCR tests will be reserved for those in high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care homes, detention centres and homeless shelters.

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 information online or at 613-575-2341. Residents can call there to log a rapid test result and can call its Community in Quarantine Program if they need help getting essentials while isolating.

The neighbouring Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also offering tests.

It has had more than 1,600 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

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. It had more than 100 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-January; 89 of those cases since Dec. 3, 2021.

People in Pikwàkanagàn can call a COVID-19 hotline at 613-401-0428 for updates on its response now that it has its first confirmed cases. It's offering PCR tests four mornings a week.

The community didn't have any confirmed COVID-19 cases until December 2021; it has 61 confirmed cases as of Jan. 14.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test or wants to log a positive rapid test result can call 613-967-3603 and should watch the website for dedicated vaccine clinics. It had 91 confirmed cases until it paused sharing its count in early January 2022 and two deaths.

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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