What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Sunday, Jan. 16

·9 min read
A person walks through the Glebe as the sun sets Saturday, during the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A person walks through the Glebe as the sun sets Saturday, during the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Prepare for class cancellations on short notice, English public school board warns.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is one of several Ontario school boards warning parents that classes could be cancelled with little notice when in-person learning resumes Monday.

The boards say they're bracing for Omicron-related staffing shortages that have been plaguing other industries for weeks.The highly contagious variant of COVID-19 led the province to shift schools online after the winter holidays.

The COVID-19 hospitalization count from Ottawa Public Health dropped slightly on Sunday, while another COVID-19 death was reported in the region.

Provincewide, nearly 4,000 people are now in hospital being treated for COVID-19.

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

That number of Ottawa residents admitted to hospital for COVID-19 treatment rose for about two weeks since around Christmas and has stabilized this 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 and set a new record at the start of the week.

As of Sunday, Ottawa has had 53,136 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 5,085 known active cases — a number that may actually be three to 10 times higher — while 47,404 cases are considered resolved and 647 people 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 270 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 paused until its return on Monday. 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.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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 reopen for in-person learning Monday. People outside between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a valid reason may face fines until the end of the curfew on Monday. Sunday is the final day that many stores have to close.

A vaccine passport is in place for most people age 13 and up in many public spaces. As of Tuesday that includes provincially run liquor and cannabis stores and as of 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 in early January that people will eventually have to have three.

The premier has said that people who remain unvaccinated without a medical exemption will 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.

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.

WATCH: Quebec ICU doctors explain who's being hit hardest by COVID-19

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 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.

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.

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.

Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press
Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press

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 1,500 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections. About 100 positive rapid test results were also shared with council earlier in January.

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 52 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-December 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 48 confirmed cases as of Jan. 4.

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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