What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 20

·8 min read
A person has their hood up as they walk in a park during morning flurries in Kingston, Ont., on Dec. 8, 2021. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A person has their hood up as they walk in a park during morning flurries in Kingston, Ont., on Dec. 8, 2021. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • City is reporting "unprecedented" demand for COVID-19 tests.

  • Many rule changes set in today.

What's the latest

New government restrictions that aim to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and dull further strain on the health-care system came into effect today across Quebec and as of 5 p.m. ET, they're already going even further.

Quebec is closing schools, bars, gyms, spas, casinos and movie theatres. Restaurants will have to reduce their capacity to 50 per cent and limit their hours to 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The goal is for in-person learning to resume Jan. 10.

Ottawa reports 312 cases of COVID-19 Monday. Some of the city's key indicators have returned to levels seen in the third wave last spring, and two other local health units have broken weekly case records.

Ottawa Public Health said Monday the demands on its testing system are unprecedented and it can't keep up.

The Ottawa Hospital has new visitor rules.

Quebec pharmacies started distributing rapid tests today. Ontario has expanded the third vaccine dose booking age at its clinics down to 18. In Quebec, it's now age 65.

Technical problems are affecting Renfrew County's health unit, including its vaccine information line.

How many cases are there?

As of Monday, Ottawa has had 34,608 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

There are 1,941 known active cases, while 32,047 cases are considered resolved and 620 people have died from the illness.

Public health officials have reported more than 66,600 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 61,300 cases now resolved. Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, 242 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 58 cases 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 are 10 people indoors and 25 outside; businesses can reach 50 per cent capacity because of the Omicron variant and quickly rising case count.

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 and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg.

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

Ten people are allowed to gather inside homes and 20 people outdoors.

Schools are closed to in-person learning until at least Jan. 10.

Schools, bars, gyms, spas and movie theatres are closed as of 5 p.m. ET Monday. Places of worship and restaurants are restricted to 50 per cent capacity. Restaurants can only open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and no singing or dancing are allowed.

WATCH | Businesses ask for help because of Omicron changes:

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, getting tested, 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 Quebec and recommended in crowded outdoor areas.

Alexander Behne/CBC
Alexander Behne/CBC

When and how long to self-isolate can vary by community, 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 as of tomorrow.

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 book third shots. The province has also shortened the interval required between the second and third doses from 168 days to 84 days.

People who are 65 and older can receive a third dose in Quebec, while those 60 and older with certain health conditions are also eligible. Everyone else 60 and older will be able to get a third dose as of Dec. 27.

There have been more than four 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.

WATCH | Advice for difficult COVID conversations:

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.

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.

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.

WATCH | A Q&A on rapid test results:

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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