By Scott Moffatt
We are getting through this. The overwhelming majority of you have adapted and are working through this new normal in a collaborative effort to reduce the spread and flatten the curve. Nothing about this is easy but it will be worth it. We are seeing small communities across Ontario and beyond being heavily impacted by this virus. We all must continue to work together, and we will get to the end of this. I have never been more certain of your collective resolve.
In this column, you will find a recent statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer of Health; information about Long Term Care Homes; the Property Tax Deferral Program; and an update on waste services.
Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches
Ottawa, you are proving to be a committed and resilient city, and I appreciate all of the feedback I have been receiving about considerations for relaxing some measures, when it is time, in coordination with the provincial and federal governments. Maintaining physical distancing and handling the uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented in our lives. How we collectively work through these current challenges, and how we bounce back from this adversity in a positive way, will continue to build our strength as a community.
There would be more cases of COVID-19 in our community had everyone not done their part over the past month. Please keep up this hard work over the next stretch of time. Thank you again for all the actions you are taking as a community – these actions are saving lives.
Our collective actions will determine when we can begin to relax some of the measures. We can begin to consider changes when we see the rate of new cases and hospitalizations slow down, and we know our hospitals and health care system are ready and have capacity to meet the demand. Keeping two metres apart really makes a difference, and the more that we keep up with this physical distancing, the sooner we’ll be able to relax restrictions in a careful way. Many people have been sharing their ideas about what is most important to start up first. For example, increasing access to more outdoor spaces to have adequate space for walking, biking, and playing has been a common idea from residents.
One strategy used in communities that have reduced restrictions is the use of masks and face coverings in public when the two-metre distance cannot be maintained. There is community transmission here in Ottawa – 25 per cent of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 are currently not linked to travel or close contact with a confirmed case.
We also know that there is some asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19; these individuals may not yet be self-isolating. Wearing a homemade mask provides an added layer of protection for the people you may come into contact with when you’re out in the community.
Thank you again for all that you are doing to protect yourselves, friends, family, and others in our community.
Long-Term Care Homes
OPH continues to work closely with the healthcare sector including Long-Term Care Homes. Locally, LTC ‘strike teams’ have been assembled to implement the Action Plan released by Ontario Health. In concert, OPH Public Health Nurses and Public Health Inspectors have been aligned to the facilities to provide additional support in outbreak management.
On April 15, 2020,the Government of Ontario announced the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes to keep residents in long-term care homes safe.
This plan is focused on a three-pronged approach:
Aggressive testing, screening, and surveillance enhancing testing for symptomatic residents and staff and those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19; expanding screening to include more asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; and leveraging surveillance tools to enable care providers to move proactively against the disease.
- Managing outbreaks and spread of the disease supporting long-term care homes with public health and infection control expertise to contain and prevent outbreaks; providing additional training and support for current staff working in outbreak conditions.
- Growing Ontario’s long-term care workforce redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce and respond to outbreaks, alongside intensive on-going recruitment initiatives.
- The Government of Ontario also passed emergency orders restricting long-term care staff from working in more than one long-term care home, retirement home or health care setting, and guidance on masks and conservation of PPE supplies.
Further guidance and Ministry of Health directives are available in French and English on the Ministry’s website.
Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program
The City is also offering a Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program for City of Ottawa residential property owners and small business property owners (assessed property value of up to $7.5 M) that have been financially affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will extend the interim property tax and final property tax deadlines of March 19, 2020 and June 18, 2020 to October 30, 2020.
The deferral option provides a delay in the remittance of property taxes and in effect delays tax increases to the residents and businesses that need it the most. The validity of income loss will be reviewed by our agents, and if approved, confirmation of enrolment will follow. Our agents have been tasked with the thorough review and consideration of many types of hardship situations and circumstances.
Further information on how to apply, eligibility requirements, the online application form and application deadlines can be found at Ottawa.ca. The application deadline is July 31, 2020
City of Ottawa Solid Waste Services
We continue to ask residents to alter their waste practices in order to keep our waste collectors safe as they continue to carry out their work daily. One key thing being asked of residents is to hold on to heavy, bulky items. To allow the collection operators to focus on regular household waste during this time, this will help the staff to do their job efficiently and maximize their physical distancing.
If you are looking to get rid of large items yourself at this time, the Trail Road Waste Facility has been closed to the public for the last four weeks. We are currently installing new infrastructure at our scale house which will allow us to open the landfill site to the public shortly. Expect an announcement on that this week.
Other considerations we are asking of residents include placing used tissues in plastic bags before placing them in the green bin and to place only 2-3 leaf and yard waste bags out each week. This will allow your waste collection operators to complete their job efficiently, maximize their physical distancing and continue to provide this essential service to residents. The City’s Environmental Services team thanks you for your consideration and cooperation.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca. You can also sign up for our now weekly newsletter to stay informed on all the latest, accurate information regarding COVID-19.