By Charlie Senack
It’s been one year since COVID-19 was first reported in Ottawa.
From the time the pandemic was first declared in March 2020 until January 31, 2021, Richmond has had 84 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Elsewhere, Barrhaven has 886 reported cases, Manotick has reported 74 cases, and Riverside South/Leitrim has reported 135 cases. The statistics are provided by the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study and February’s numbers have not yet been made available due to Ottawa Public Health using their time for vaccine planning.
COVID-19 — then known as the coronavirus — was first declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020— the same day the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Ottawa. Soon after it was announced March break would be extended for two weeks as an added safety precaution and city facilities would close. A few days later on March 16, 2020, restaurants and bars would close — all non-essential businesses would be forced to do the same on March 23, 2020.
It would be months before business were able to re-open, with other shutdowns popping up as COVID-19 cases raised. Schools remained out of in-person learning until September, many still choosing to learn online.
As of March 11, 2021, Ottawa has reported 15,338 confirmed cases of COVID-19 446 deaths, and 582 outbreaks, according to Ottawa Public Health. Canada meanwhile has reported 898,569 confirmed cases of the virus and 22,360 deaths. The numbers are believed to actually be much higher.
Speaking in Parliament on the one year anniversary of the pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to the tens of thousands of lives lost, saying March 11, 2020 will always be a date with a before and an after.
“A year ago Canadians were asked to stay home and stay safe,” said Trudeau. “And yet even apart — or perhaps because we are apart — our communities became stronger and stronger. Businesses stepped up to produce PPE when we needed it most. Some went from making hockey masks to face shields. It doesn’t get more Canadian than that.”
The rate of new COVID-19 cases in the province of Ontario is decreasing however cases in Ottawa are slightly climbing. The rate of COVID-19 found in wastewater is up, a sign that trends aren’t heading in the right direction. The city is currently sitting in the orange zone but it’s on the border of entering red.
Speaking at a virtual press conference with members of the media this week, Ottawa’s top Doctor, Vera Etches, says the possibility of enhanced measures isn’t off the table.
I’m watching this very carefully,” she said. “We see variants of concern rising — (there is) a higher number of variants on the screening this week of up to 124.”
Etches says one of the reasons for climbing case numbers is outbreaks caused by sport gatherings.
“Usually when people are playing sports they aren’t wearing masks and where we are seeing the risk is also activities without masks before and after the games,” said Etches, who adds it’s an issue they have seen in all sports including: hockey, soccer, skating, tennis, and also dance lessons. Cases are also taking place from players having meals together or carpooling without masks.
Now one year on from when COVID-19 first changed our lives here in Ottawa, vaccination efforts are now under way including at the Nepean Sportsplex. Those over 90 can receive a vaccine; 80 and over for those in hotspot communities which include: Parkwood Hills, Stewart Farm, Bayshore Manor Park and Lowertown among others. All Canadians are expected to be vaccinated by September; everyone 65 and over by June.
But for the families of 446 people in Ottawa and 22,360 people in Canada, it’s too late. Every number is a name and a story.
“Every Canadian lost to this virus will be remembered,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Every shift done by a frontline nurse, every mask made by a Canadian worker will not be forgotten. We are stronger together today, tomorrow and always.”