What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 3

·9 min read
Workers wait to cross a street as snow falls in downtown Ottawa Dec. 15, 2021. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Workers wait to cross a street as snow falls in downtown Ottawa Dec. 15, 2021. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Staff are being pulled from elsewhere to cover shortages at the Papineau hospital.

What's the latest?

Ontario is making several changes that include moving schools online for at least two weeks, temporarily closing indoor dining, gyms and museums as of Wednesday and pausing non-urgent medical procedures.

Public health officials said today the Omicron variant threatens to overwhelm the province's health-care system and could force 20 to 30 per cent of the province's working population into isolation in the coming weeks.

There are currently 24 Ottawa residents with COVID-19 in local hospitals, three more than reported Sunday and more than double the 10 reported one week ago. Four people with COVID-19 remain in an ICU.

The wider region's COVID hospitalization count has doubled in less than two weeks to more than 110 patients.

Western Quebec health authority CISSSO is pausing emergency care in Saint-André-Avellin from Jan. 5 to 28 to send staff about 40 kilometres away to the hospital in Papineau, which it says is having a major staff shortage because of the Omicron variant.

The Ottawa Senators have placed defenceman Thomas Chabot, forwards Zach Sanford and Chris Tierney, and assistant coach Bob Jones in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol.

How many cases are there?

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

As of Monday, Ottawa has had 45,495 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 8,952 known active cases, 35,919 cases are considered resolved and 624 people have died from the illness.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

The city's hospitalizations have been rising since around Christmas.

Local public health officials have reported nearly 94,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 70,000 cases now resolved.

In eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa, 253 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 224.

Akwesasne has had about 1,400 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had 78 confirmed cases and one death. Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg has had 52 confirmed and one death. Pikwàkanagàn has 33 confirmed cases, all in the winter 2021-22 wave.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

The province's private gathering limits drop to five people indoors and 10 outside as of Wednesday until at least Jan. 26. Indoor dining, gyms and museums are also closed as of Wednesday, when businesses and religious services can reach 50 per cent capacity.

In-person learning is paused until Jan. 17.

Local officials can also introduce their own rules and that's happened in places such as Ottawa, the Kingston area and Pikwàkanagàn.

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 tomorrow and medical exemptions have to have one by next Monday, Jan. 10.

Western Quebec

Indoor gatherings involving more than one household bubble are now prohibited, one of several new rules that came into effect New Year's Eve.

The provincial curfew is also back and people outside between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a valid reason may face fines.

WATCH | Protests against Quebec's provincewide curfew:

Restaurant dining rooms must also now close, as well as places of worship — although there are exceptions for small funerals. Indoor sports have also been cancelled.

All schools are closed to in-person learning until Jan. 17.

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.\

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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.

Current 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.

WATCH | The increasing burden on hospitals:

Health officials say under Omicron, people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting vaccinated, staying home when sick and seeing as few people in person as possible.

Masks, preferably medical ones, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and for people in Quebec age 10 and up. They're generally recommended in crowded outdoor areas and some communities such as Ottawa have made them mandatory in some outdoor areas.

Ontario self-isolation rules changed at the end of December. Quebec's general self-isolation length is 10 days.

WATCH | The differences in isolation rules:

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 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.

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.

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. That is expanding in stages by age until Jan. 21, with the next coming Tuesday down to age 55.

There have been more than 4.4 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 made significant testing changes at the end of December because of the surge in Omicron variant cases. Only high-risk individuals who are symptomatic or who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can get a PCR test, while others should assume they have COVID if they have symptoms.

Qualified people can check with their health unit for clinic locations and hours.

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.

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.

Children and staff in daycares who have been in contact with a positive case at the daycare don't have to isolate or get tested and will be able to remain in the centre if they have no symptoms.

People have to make an appointment, as walk-in tests currently aren't available. They can also call 1-877-644-4545 with questions during hours the line is running.

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. Residents can call that number to log a rapid test result.

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.

People in Pikwàkanagàn can call a COVID-19 hotline at 613-401-0428 for updates on its changing response now that it has its first confirmed cases.

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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