With Ottawa in red zone, it still feels like 2020

By Ward 21 Councillor Scott Moffatt

Well, it’s not 2020 anymore. It only feels like it. As of Monday, January 4, 2021, Ottawa is in the red “Control” zone of the Ontario Covid-19 Reopening Framework. This comes as a result of the number of positive cases in Ottawa has increased and we now meet the criteria for this zone.

That said, we are still under the restrictions and regulations for the Provincewide Shutdown until such time that the Shutdown is lifted. As you know, the restrictions from the Provincewide Shutdown started on Saturday, December 26, 2020 and will continue in Ottawa until Saturday, January 23, 2021. I know many were hoping this might be lifted sooner than the full 28 days. I think it is safe to say that will no longer happen.

Under the provincewide shutdown, indoor gatherings are limited to your household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation. Limits for outdoor gatherings must comply with general public health advice on physical distancing and are limited to 10 people. 

The Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario advises Ontarians to limit trips outside of the home to trips for essential purposes only. This means that we cannot go to places like Dominican Republic. As it happens, politicians are not exempt from such travel restrictions. Not everyone got that memo.

Essential purposes include: 

The restrictions from the provincewide shutdown affects:

Businesses, organizations and facilities

  • Organized public events
  • Social gatherings (including religious services, rites or ceremonies)
  • Schools
  • Child-care
  • Post-secondary institutions
  • Day camps

As we have said in the past, the best thing you can do through all of this is to remember to be COVID Wise:

And now, portions of most recent statement (January 5) from Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches:

Today, we round another corner with the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care homes.

As an initial rollout in Ottawa, Pfizer has lifted restrictions to allow the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to be administered in locations outside of The Ottawa Hospital. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout will continue today starting with residents of the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre receiving the Pfizer vaccine. This is the first opportunity to bring the Pfizer vaccine to residents, when previously people could only be administered this vaccine at The Ottawa Hospital due to the cold storage requirements.

This is another encouraging milestone in our COVID-19 response. We have seen the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on people living and working in long-term care and retirement homes. We are now one step closer to helping protect those in the community who need it most. We are working closely with our long-term care partners, The Ottawa Hospital and the City to have all eligible residents of Ottawa’s 28 long-term care homes vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible, depending on vaccine supply. 

There is cause for hope. Hope for our long-term care staff and residents, and hope for all of Ottawa. And while it’s important to remain hopeful, we must also remain cautious and return to the practices that kept transmission low before the December holidays. Thank you to all who have been doing their best to stay home. Unfortunately, we are now securely in the red category of the Province’s framework according to our numbers and the provincewide shutdown restrictions remain in effect for Ottawa. Until vaccines are widely available it remains important to take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community against COVID-19. This includes staying home as much as possible, limiting your close contacts to those in your household, keeping two metres distance from others, wearing your mask and washing your hands often. Avoid crowded places.

I am very concerned about the current situation in Ottawa, so I want to address a couple of myths.

First, I am hearing that people think recent transmission is related to people not following restrictions and doing things like travel. In fact, most transmission is occurring among private gatherings with friends, family and neighbours, and more in workplaces without public health measures like mask wearing or distance.

Additionally, there seems to be a misconception that hospitalizations are mostly people from long-term care and retirement home settings. This is not currently the case. At this moment, all hospitalizations are people who are coming from the community. This includes people in their 20s, 40s, 50s and 60s. The current rate of increase in hospitalizations is not manageable. We all must remain COVID wise at all times, even when we’re outdoors. Last week the City announced a temporary mandatory mask by-law for all outdoor refrigerated and community skating rinks. To keep each other safe and reduce the transmission of COVID-19, skaters not from the same household must keep two metres apart on and off the ice. Masks are not mandatory while skating but are highly recommended.

The rate of the increase of COVID-19 in the community is too fast for the hospitals to be able to avoid canceling surgeries again if the rapid rise continues. Yet we know the worst numbers are likely still ahead of us as we are only starting to see the outbreaks related to gatherings over the holidays.  Outbreaks have doubled in the last week and hospitalizations are starting to increase again.

Vaccinating directly in long-term care homes will help save the lives of those who are most at risk. And one day soon, the vaccine will be available to everyone in Ottawa who wishes to receive it.

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 Ward 21 issues, please visit TeamTwentyOne.ca.