What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 9

·8 min read
A person walks in a park during morning flurries in Kingston, Ont., on Wednesday. The region reported its first COVID-19 case involving the omicron variant yesterday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A person walks in a park during morning flurries in Kingston, Ont., on Wednesday. The region reported its first COVID-19 case involving the omicron variant yesterday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • The Outaouais has its first cases of omicron variant.

  • The Kingston area is changing symptom screening and mask rules.

What's the latest?

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reported 32 more COVID-19 cases on Thursday and no deaths.

The health authority for the Outaouais has announced its first two confirmed cases of the omicron variant. Ottawa also announced its fifth case of the omicron variant, saying it is linked to travel like its others.

WATCH | Ottawans should think about changing holiday plans with rising COVID risk:

The medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington is, as of Saturday, requiring everyone entering a business, staff included, to answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms.

Once inside, they have to be seated while eating or drinking and wear a mask while moving around. Dr. Piotr Oglaza said people doing neither has been a problem in its record-breaking late-autumn spike.

How many cases are there?

As of Thursday, Ottawa has had 32,507 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Ottawa-Gatineau area confirmed COVID-19 cases

There are 451 known active cases, while 31,438 cases are considered resolved and 618 people have died from the illness.

Public health officials have reported more than 61,500 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 58,900 cases now resolved. Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, 237 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 223.

Akwesasne has had more than 1,200 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 14 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had 45 cases and one death. Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg has had 44 cases, one death and is in the midst of an active outbreak. Pikwàkanagàn hasn't had any cases.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

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.

There are no capacity restrictions for most places that require proof of vaccination, nor for outdoor organized events.

Private gathering limits are 25 people inside and 100 people outside.

The plan is to lift public health measures in stages until March 2022, with the next step paused as officials monitor some rising trends.

Health officials say people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting vaccinated, testing and staying home when sick and limiting social contacts.

Local officials can change rules — for example, Renfrew County has done that for isolation, the Kingston and Belleville areas for school symptoms and the Kingston area for indoor gatherings and businesses.

Kingston's medical officer of health and Akwesasne's council are both asking residents to avoid in-person gatherings.

Western Quebec

Ten people are allowed to gather inside homes and 20 people outdoors — which increases to 50 if playing sports. The indoor gathering limit goes up to 20 people on Dec. 23.

There are no capacity limits for Quebec venues with assigned seats and restaurants.

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.

This means 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.

Masks, preferably medical or surgical ones, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and recommended in crowded outdoor areas.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

When and how long to self-isolate can vary in Quebec and Ontario 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.

Scientists are working to find out how easily the new omicron coronavirus variant spreads, its severity and the performance of vaccines against it.

WATCH | Pfizer-BioNTech's research into omicron:

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 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.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents no longer need proof of a test when returning from trips to the U.S. under 72 hours.

The hope is that other countries will accept provincial or territorial proof of vaccination.

People have to be fully vaccinated and pre-approved to enter Canada. Because of the omicron variant, air travellers from every country except the United States have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and isolate until they get results.

There are further travel restrictions from a number of African countries because of omicron.

WATCH | A Q&A about where we are with omicron:

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. Doses for kids age five to 11 will be given at least eight weeks apart in both local provinces.

Ontario's next third shot expansion comes Monday morning for people in their 50s and 60s; Quebec expanded it in early December and plans to lower its age in January.

There have been more than 3.8 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 and doses on short notice as campaigns look to fill gaps in vaccine coverage and cover expanded eligibility.

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.

Jacques Corriveau/Radio-Canada
Jacques Corriveau/Radio-Canada

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 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 some places, including pharmacies and some child-care settings when risk is high. A positive 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. The province has asked the federal government for millions more tests and hopes they can eventually be given out for free.

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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