What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Saturday, Dec. 18

·8 min read
People walk down Queen Street in Ottawa on Dec. 17, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic.  (Vincent Yergeau/CBC - image credit)
People walk down Queen Street in Ottawa on Dec. 17, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Vincent Yergeau/CBC - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Ottawa reported 251 cases of COVID-19 Saturday.

What's the latest

Mayor Jim Watson has tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain in isolation for eight days. The mayor announced he was in self-isolation earlier this week after a staffer was in close contact with someone who tested positive for the illness.

After nearly two years of the pandemic, Ottawa hospitals are preparing for yet another potential surge in COVID-19 cases — while acknowledging it will be hard to expand services with so many tired, weary staff.

The annual Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament has been cancelled due to concerns about rising COVID-19 case counts and the Omicron variant. The tournament was also called off in 2020.

Ottawa reported 251 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, one of the highest single-day totals since the spring. The city is seeing several key indicators double in a matter of days.

With the Omicron variant rapidly spreading, here's what you need to keep in mind.

How many cases are there?

As of Saturday, Ottawa has had 33,963 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

There are 1,409 known active cases, while 31,934 cases are considered resolved and 620 people have died from the illness.

Public health officials have reported more than 64,459 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 60,700 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 about 1,250 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had 56 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:

Starting Sunday, many Ontario businesses will have to reduce capacity to 50 per cent as the Omicron variant appears to be causing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Private gathering limits are currently 25 people inside and 100 people outside, although those will shrink further on Sunday as well to 10 people indoors and 25 outside.

Health officials say people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting vaccinated, getting tested and staying home when sick.

Ottawans are also being urged to keep gatherings as small as possible, avoid large crowds and press pause on in indoor sports.

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.

Long-term care rules have also tightened.

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. Several rules are being tightened on Monday including a number of capacity limits.

Masks will again be required in classrooms and on school buses and high schoolers will start January with online learning.

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.

It is important to take precautions such as staying home while sick — and getting help with costs if needed — keeping hands and surfaces clean and considering distancing from anyone you don't live with.

CBC
CBC

Masks, preferably medical or surgical 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 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 once again have to test negative for COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Travel restrictions no longer specifically apply to some African countries.

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 is able to book third shots starting Monday. The province has also shortened the interval required between the second and third doses from six months to three months.

Quebec will lower its age threshold for boosters to 65 on Monday, then age 60 one week later.

There have been more than 3.9 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.

Brian Morris/CBC
Brian Morris/CBC

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, Kingston-area family doctor offices, and some child-care settings when risk is high. Students will 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 and as of Monday, 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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