What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Sunday, Jan. 9

·9 min read
A pair of workers prepare Ottawa's Rideau Canal for winter skating on Jan. 8, 2022. (Alexander Behne/CBC - image credit)
A pair of workers prepare Ottawa's Rideau Canal for winter skating on Jan. 8, 2022. (Alexander Behne/CBC - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • There are now 60 Ottawa residents in local hospitals being treated for COVID-19.

  • Six patients are in the ICU.

  • Long-term care, retirement homes face rising number of outbreaks.

  • Another Ottawa Senators game has been postponed.

More than 30 long-term care and retirement homes in Ottawa are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, even though many staff and residents already have three vaccine doses — sparking concern among experts, advocates and family members.

Sixty Ottawa residents are in local hospitals being treated for COVID-19, according to Ottawa Public Health's Sunday update. That's nine more than on Saturday.

Six people are in intensive care units.

As Omicron spreads and Ottawans struggle with sickness and general fatigue, members of the local Jewish community have begun delivering free, kosher chicken soup right to people's doors.

Another Ottawa Senators game has been postponed — this time, it's tomorrow's road game against Edmonton, which is being pushed back to Saturday. The Senators have only played one game since Dec. 18.

Numbers to watch

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

The number of Ottawa residents admitted to hospital for COVID-19 treatment has been rising since around Christmas amid a health-care staffing shortage.

Test positivity has been setting records since the last week of November and the level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater has been rising for nearly a month.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

As of Sunday, Ottawa has had 49,783 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 8,353 known active cases — a number that may actually be three to 10 times higher — while 40,794 cases are considered resolved and 633 people have died from the illness.

Local public health officials have reported more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 75,000 cases now deemed resolved.

More than 200 local patients are in the area's hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, a number that's been steadily rising this month. There are 31 patients in an ICU. That metric has been more stable.

In eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa, 262 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 224.

Akwesasne has had more than 1,500 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has 91 confirmed cases and one death. Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg had 52 confirmed and one death as of mid-December 2021. Pikwàkanagàn has 48 confirmed cases, all in this current wave.

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 Jan. 17.

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Local officials can also change rules and that's happened in places like Ottawa for masks, the Kingston area for personal care businesses, Akwesasne 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, while medical exemptions must also have one as of Monday, Jan. 10.

Western Quebec

Indoor gatherings involving more than one household bubble are prohibited. People found outside between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a valid reason may face fines.

Restaurant dining rooms are closed, as are places of worship except 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. As of Jan. 18, that includes provincially run liquor and cannabis 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.

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 vaccinated, staying home when sick and reducing close contacts. If people are going to have social visits, they should do it outside if possible.

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.

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.

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

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 everyone 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.

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 — although local resources don't always meet demand — after 84 days have passed since their second dose.

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

Fourth doses are being offered to older people in care homes starting 84 days after they received their third.

People who are 45 and older can receive a third dose in Quebec, along with those who have certain health conditions. The rollout is expanding in stages by age until Jan. 17, with people 40 and older able to get their third shot on Monday.

There have been more than 4.5 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.

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.

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.

Rapid and take-home tests are available in select malls, libraries and LCBOs, Kingston-area family doctor offices and some child-care settings when risk is high. Free provincial giveaways are ending Jan. 14 to focus supply on key groups.

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

In western Quebec:

This province 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 isolatng.

The neighbouring Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also offering tests.

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's holding a walk-in vaccine clinic on Thursday.

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. It's offering PCR tests four mornings a week.

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.

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.

Ottawa's dedicated vaccine clinic for Indigenous people ends Jan. 15.

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