May 13, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

As we continue to see the number of cases of COVID-19 in the community decline, I want to thank Ottawa residents for your efforts to follow public health messaging. I continue to be touched and proud to be a part of this community that has come together and shown such great support for each other during these unprecedented times.

Updated testing criteria

We have reached the next phase in the capacity for COVID19 testing in Ottawa. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) now recommends that anyone experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms should be tested. Those with symptoms can be assessed by a healthcare provider, and tested, if required, at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre or one of the COVID-19 Care Clinics. If wait times are high, priority will be given to essential workers and healthcare workers. Many primary care offices remain open to assess patients as well, so please call your family physician’s office to see if they can accommodate your visit first. As usual, the advice to stay home when ill is important to stop the spread of infections.  When traveling to access an assessment centre, care clinic or other healthcare setting, please use a non-medical mask or face covering and keep your hands clean.

If you are in distress (e.g. significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the assessment centre or a care clinic. Go to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1.

Testing in long term care homes and emergency childcare centers

As of yesterday, testing has been completed in Ottawa’s 28 long-term care homes and 76 staff have been tested in the three emergency childcare centers in Ottawa. ?At the moment, there is no plan to expand the surveillance testing to other settings, however OPH has proactively reached out to retirement homes that need support with our healthcare partners. And, supports to other congregate care settings, like group homes and shelters, continue to evolve.

COVID?19 Support Teams have continued outreach to long?term care homes identified by public health? as ‘high risk’ and homes flagged as moderate risk are also being engaged. A number of partnerships between hospitals and long?term care homes have been established to support staffing and other needs in the homes.  These interventions are making a difference and more partnerships are established as assessments continue. ?

Looking ahead

As we  adapt to living with COVID-19 and begin to reopen our city, we are working with residents, community and health care partners and all levels of government to ensure new and expanded measures are in place: more widespread testing of symptomatic people, technology to support case and contact management and universal face covering where physical distancing is not possible.

We have asked for your thoughts, perceptions and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19 through various feedback mechanisms including our COVID-19: Share your thoughts engagement platform. We are asking respondents what they are doing to make physical distancing more manageable and so far, have received many ideas on reopening the city. We have heard about mask use, expanded testing, and how businesses can operate while ensuring people maintain a safe distance from each other.

This information is helping to inform decision makers and we encourage all residents to continue sharing their experiences with us. Since launching the COVID-19 online engagement on May 1 we have heard from more than 1500 residents through our surveys and ideas tool. The first phase closes soon but there is still time to have your say: visit https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19.

??The actions we have collectively taken to date - and will continue to take – will impact our future. Earlier in the year, I referenced several p-words related to what we were just learning was a pandemic - including preparedness, prevention and politeness. I have a few more words to add. Let’s continue to be proactive and pragmatic.  We need to help people get back to work and we can work to prevent a resurgence with maintaining physical distancing and wearing non-medical masks or face coverings when within 2 metres of others.  Thank you for your patience, your perseverance and your passion. 

 May 11, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Today marks the start of National Nursing Week, a time when nurses are recognized for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the health and well-being of us all. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) nurses play a vital role across the Ottawa community and in the life of every resident in the city. As respected members of our public health teams, nurses bring tremendous technical expertise to promote and protect our community's health and to prevent disease and injury across populations.

During this week, please join me in extending a thank you to the OPH nurses and all nurses across the healthcare sector for their tireless work now and every day.

Testing for COVID-19 infection

OPH continues to work with the Champlain Health Region Incident Command (CHRIC) to make COVID-19 testing available to the public, carry out testing to manage outbreaks and a surveillance exercise in long-term care homes and emergency child care centres. The Ontario-area laboratories appear to be managing the volume of testing created from encouraging people over 60 who have COVID-19-like symptoms to present to an Assessment Centre or Care Clinic for assessment.  As the surveillance exercise wraps up, more of the population will be encouraged to present to rule out COVID-19 if they have symptoms of the infection.

Gatherings of up to five people

There have been many questions in the last few days regarding gathering with people outside our households if the group size is less than five. While Ontario regulation allows gatherings of up to five people, OPH recommends keeping to activities with members of our households as much as possible, no matter what the size of the group. If we increase our interaction with others too much too soon, the level of infection has more chances to rise and we may risk overburdening our health care system – something we have avoided so far, thanks to the actions of people in Ottawa.  People may not realize they are infected and still pass on the COVID-19 virus.  There are still cases arising in the community where people infected were not in contact with a known case and did not have a history of travel to an affected area.

Provincial parks reopening across Ontario

Some good news for everyone to access more outdoor space for walking, biking, hiking, and more to stay active and healthy: as of today, the provincial government will begin reopening provincial parks and conservation reserves for day use with limited access. Before planning your trip, please visit www.ontarioparks.com/park-locator to check the status of your local provincial park. Also, it is important to remember to continue to practice physical distancing if you decide to use these areas. Lastly, masks can provide another level of protection to people around you if you are not able to maintain a 2-metre distance from them.

May 8, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Today, I ‘d like to take a moment to recognize the local health care worker who died as a result of COVID-19, while working to protect the health of others. The family, friends and colleagues of the worker are in our thoughts.  It is very difficult to lose a member of the health care community, and we are devasted by this loss on top of the loss of so many residents.

Long-term care homes

OPH continues to be concerned for our residents in long-term care during this pandemic. It is important for the population, and especially those with loved ones in long-term care homes, to know that most long-term care homes in Ottawa have no outbreaks and zero cases of COVID-19. For those homes that do have outbreaks, hospitals have been paired up with the homes facing the greatest pressure and the situation has improved in the operation of these homes.  We continue to see deaths from infections that started with transmission in the past. 

Managing risk while easing restrictions

This week marked the start of easing some of the COVID-related community restrictions, such as the reopening of some parks and businesses, and more announcements are being made by the province frequently. Although more public spaces are available, the community remains extremely vulnerable to a resurgence of disease. Most people are not immune to COVID-19 and the vast majority of the population remains susceptible. 

Therefore, we must continue to practice physical distancing as some measures are being relaxed – that message does not change.  And, I am encouraged that the motivation of the people of Ottawa to protect others around them will not change.

 We are in the fortunate position in that we are able to observe what other countries are doing with regards to relaxation of restrictions and we will continue to monitor how the situations develop as they reopen their businesses, schools and outdoor spaces.

We are in a time where people need to, and they want to, return to the activities they love. OPH recognizes the burden that COVID-19 has created and the impacts on the direct health of Ottawa’s residents. And, we are concerned about the indirect harms COVID19 has caused -- stress and anxiety, loss of employment, food insecurity, exposure to violence, delayed access to medical and dental services and reduced social support -- as these have big influences on health and wellbeing. 

OPH is working with provincial, municipal and community partners to support a progressive relaxing of restrictions that will minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community.  If we increase our interaction with others too much too soon, the level of infection will rise and we risk overburdening our health care system – something we have avoided so far, thanks to your actions.  We need to continue to keep this virus pinned down and at a manageable level within the community, and I would like to also see a further decline in hospitalizations to show we are reaching lower levels of virus in the community. 

What is important is that the actions of everyone in the city will be what determines our future.

What you have done so far, and what we do today will impact our future. The people of Ottawa have done such a good job at protecting themselves and others by following the physical distancing measures. Keeping two metres between each other is what will continue to protect us. We need to continue physical distancing moving forward as we resume other activities.

During this period, wearing of cloth masks in the community when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres will be important to reduce transmission from individuals that do not have symptoms and may not realize they are ill. As well as, continued community testing of people with COVID19-like symptoms will be essential, along with testing to control outbreaks. OPH will continue to work with health care sector partners to ensure testing capacity. 

Please continue to visit our website www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for updated content about where to purchase a mask, how to wear a mask and updated physical distancing information.

May 6, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

The Ottawa community has come together and has shown such great support for each other in these hard times. This week is the annual Mental Health Week that recognizes the importance of mental health awareness in Canada. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, we need each other now more than ever. Being honest and clear about our needs, and how we are doing with regards to our mental health is of utmost importance, so that we can continue to support each other. There are resources available on Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) website that you can use to support family, friends, colleagues and yourself.

Update on transition to new case management system and epidemiology report

OPH is transitioning to a new case management and reporting system. In the interim, a condensed epidemiological report is posted on OPH’s website until the transition is complete. We appreciate the public’s patience with this process.

What is important to highlight regarding the data is that the level of hospitalizations is not in steep decline and that gives us an idea of infection in the community.   

This means that while we have seen success in planking the curve, we have to remember that the level of infection in the community is simply being kept at a manageable level. There continues to be a risk, that as we increase our interactions with others, that the level of infection in our community will rise quickly again. 

Testing in long term care homes

Surveillance testing for all residents and staff in 28 long-term care homes in Ottawa continues. Testing has occurred in 15 homes to-date, with testing in all homes to be completed on, or ahead of schedule, before May 15, 2020. This surveillance has included testing of approximately 1,880 residents and 1,826 staff with results still pending from multiple homes.

This undertaking has only been possible with the collaborative effort of many partners:

With all of the interest in testing, it is important to place surveillance testing in the overall context of controlling transmission of this disease. The purpose of this surveillance testing is to provide a snapshot of the current state of COVID-19 infections in long-term care homes particularly, since we know people can have mild or no symptoms and still be infectious. While the surveillance testing provides a picture of what's happening at one moment in time, infection, prevention, and control measures continue to be the most effective ways to decrease COVID-19 in long-term care homes. This includes employees avoiding working if symptomatic, ensuring all employees wear a medical grade face mask at all times while at work, and proper cohorting of people infected with COVID-19.

COVID-19: Share your thoughts online engagement

To date, our COVID-19 engagement survey has almost 8,500 visits to the platform, 1,236 users have participated in the survey, and we’ve received over 115 ideas on how to make physical distancing more manageable.

From what we’ve heard so far, the restrictions that have been especially difficult for residents include the closure of parks, reduced family and social connectedness, physical distancing requirements, and the closing of schools and childcare.

Residents are encouraged to visit engage.ottawa.ca/covid19 to complete the survey in English and French and provide feedback. The feedback received will help the City and OPH develop a recovery plan that meets the needs and expectations of our community, as much as possible.

Masks and Physical Distancing

There have been questions about masks over the past few days, and you may be seeing more people wearing material masks in the community.

Someone wearing a mask is sending a signal that they care for you.

Because of the risk of rising rates of infection again, OPH recommends that residents continue to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres from others, and to wear a non-medical mask when this distance cannot be maintained, such as on public transit or at a grocery store, to decrease transmission of COVID-19. For more information about non-medical masks, including how to make one or where to buy one, please visit our special mask website

We know COVID-19 is circulating in our community and that transmission can occur when a person is asymptomatic. Wearing a non-medical mask is not a replacement for physical distancing, hand washing, and monitoring your health.

We are seeing more people biking with their families on multiuse paths and joggers are seen alongside the river, this is good to see people outside and being active. City parks and beaches are partially reopening, and we hear that people want to spend time with family and friends outside their household.

OPH continues to advise that limiting activities to members of your own household remains important to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.  Physical distancing of at least two metres from non-household members needs to be maintained as we begin to open some public spaces.

Thank you to Ottawa residents for all the efforts you have put into date. You ARE making a difference. Physical distancing is working but we can’t let up. Limiting outings to essential trips only is working. We all need to continue to do these things, so that we can be confident in moving forward with relaxing current restrictions.

We will get through this time together. Stay connected, but stay physically apart. Stay healthy and Stay safe.

 May 1, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

Today I am pleased to announce that Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa are launching the first phase of a city-wide engagement opportunity to hear from residents about our collective community response to COVID-19. We are looking to learn more about your thoughts, perceptions and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19.

This online engagement platform, called COVID-19: Share your thoughts, will allow us to learn how residents are making changes in their lives to protect themselves and loved ones, what their experience has been receiving and understanding information, what kinds of supports residents have accessed, ideas to maintain physical distancing into the future and what is perhaps much needed right now – good news stories.

The City and OPH are currently exploring how we can safely reopen the city in a gradual, phased approach while aligning with the Province of Ontario’s framework for reopening the province, and we must include public feedback.

The information we receive from residents will help to ensure we develop a plan for the post-peak period that aligns with the province and meets the needs and expectations of our community as much as possible.  OPH is also working with stakeholders, such as the Mayor’s office and City leadership, City task forces, health system partners, the NCC and others, to interpret and apply the anticipated provincial guidelines within Ottawa.

Community and client engagement is one of the transformational initiatives in OPH’s strategic plan. Engagement is a process to work with our community, not just for our community, and ensures the decisions we make, and the work that we do, is rooted in the voices of clients and partners.

I encourage everyone to visit https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19 or https://participons.ottawa.ca/covid19 to participate in English and French. Please check back regularly as we will update this page to seek ongoing feedback as we continue to navigate next steps.

Aging Well in Ottawa

One other way that OPH regularly engages with our residents is through Facebook. This week we launched another moderated Facebook page, called Aging Well in Ottawa for residents 55 years of age and older and their caregivers. This page has had a lot of interest in its first week.  Ottawa Public Health staff will be online from 9 am to 3 pm daily (Monday to Friday) to discuss timely health topics, address questions and support residents to connect with one another. Please join us online for this exciting new initiative.

Updated testing criteria

OPH is now recommending that any residents over 60 years of age experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, go for assessment.  The full list of who is eligible for testing is available on our website.  You can get tested at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care Clinic.

If you are in distress (e.g. significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

New case management system and epidemiology report

OPH is transitioning to a new case management and reporting system called the COVID-19 Ottawa Database. This transition will position OPH to better manage COVID-19 case volumes, facilitate remote work options for the case management team and continue to uphold provincial reporting obligations.

To support the transition, OPH is currently conducting quality assurance to validate the data in the new system. In the interim, a snapshot report will be posted until the transition is complete, likely early next week. 

April 29, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

COVID-19 Cases

As of 4 pm on April 28, 2020, OPH is investigating?1,297 lab-confirmed cases, 76 newly reported since yesterday. Over the last few days, we have been seeing these larger increases in the number of cases than previous weeks. We anticipated this increase as more people are eligible for testing and therefore getting tested and due to the surveillance exercise that took place last weekend in which all staff and residents of nine long-term care homes were tested.

Sadly, we are reporting five new deaths, all in long-term care residents, since our last report yesterday. Of the 76 deceased total, 69 (91 per cent) were aged 65 years or older, six were 45-64 years old and one was 20 to 44 years old; 39 males and 37 females.

It is important to note that our reporting does not reflect the number of cases or deaths in a single day; but rather reflects the number of new cases since the last report which can include data from a range of days.  For example, the 76 cases reported today were from specimens collected April 24-27 and the 5 deaths reported today also occurred April 24-27.

The number of reported confirmed cases is always just a percentage of the number of actual infections (symptomatic and symptomatic) in our community because testing capacity has only been extended to priority groups to date. Therefore, it is important that we all continue to keep physical distance from people outside of our households.  We are working with our health care partners to implement more testing for more of the population and continue our contact tracing to better understand the spread of the virus in our community.

The majority of new confirmed cases have been in healthcare institutional outbreaks, but there continues to be community transmission (Figure 3).  Our reported data?may differ from other numbers published elsewhere, such as care homes themselves, due to data entry lag, different reporting sources, or download times. Care homes get the information of residents’ results first and take appropriate measures to isolate and care for their residents and staff.

National Immunization Awareness Week

This week is National Immunization Awareness Week, an annual event held at the end of April to recognize the importance of immunization in Canada.

Prevention is at the heart of what we do at Ottawa Public Health, and this global pandemic is a terrible reminder of how a virus can impact our lives when there is no vaccine.  Vaccines are a proven way to protect people and communities against very harmful and serious diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus and more. As researchers and scientists across the world continue to search for a vaccine against COVID19, I want to remind residents of the importance of maintaining physical distancing and also keeping up with routine immunizations for yourselves and your loved ones.

There are two great initiatives happening this week regarding immunizations: 

  1. The Kids Comes First Health Team (CHEO, OPH, community pediatricians and CANImmunize) has opened a Children’s Immunization Clinic for infants and children under two (2) years of age in the Ottawa region who are unable to get their routine series of immunizations due to COVID-19 closures. 
  2. There will be a moderated discussion on our Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page with a Public Health Nurse about immunization this Friday (May 1).   

New Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook Page 

Facebook has been a valuable platform for Ottawa Public Health to engage with families and residents over the past years. To build on this success, Ottawa Public Health launched a new Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook page this week for residents 55 years of age and older and their caregivers. An Ottawa Public Health staff will be online from 9 am to 3 pm daily (Monday to Friday) and residents connect with one another. Please join us online for this exciting new initiative.

Reporting of data

Starting tomorrow, Ottawa Public Health will be transitioning to a new case management and reporting system. This new web-based secure system allows our team to more quickly and easily document each individual case investigation and share data with the provincial Ministry of Health. Due to the technicalities of this transition, there will be no epidemiology report published on our website on Thursday, April 30. No data will be missing or lost; the information from April 30 will be included in the May 1 report.

April 27, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches 

Provincial announcement

Today the Ontario premier unveiled the province’s framework for gradually re-opening the economy.

We will review the framework with our municipal and health care system partners and provide more information on what this means in Ottawa in the coming days.

Testing in long-term care homes

This past weekend, surveillance testing began in nine long-term care homes in Ottawa.

This exercise was completed as part of the provincial directive announced last week to implement surveillance testing at long-term care homes.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service deserves a big thanks for this weekend’s collaborative effort to implement the pilot surveillance testing of long-term care home staff and residents.  The task of testing over 1700 residents and healthcare workers could not have been completed without 26 Ottawa paramedics willing to help with taking swabs.

I also want to thank our partners from the?Champlain Health Region Incident Command and the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association for their efforts this weekend, working alongside Ottawa Public Health team members, who also have my thanks for continuing strenuous efforts to control COVID19 in our community.

This kind of collaboration with City, healthcare and public health workers makes me proud of the response in our area and is the way we will continue to work with an ongoing focus on supports for long-term care homes.

We know that asymptomatic transmission can occur, and we can expect an increase in the number of detected cases in health care workers and residents as a result of this surveillance exercise. The purpose of this surveillance testing is to better understand the current state of COVID-19 infections in long-term care homes.

While testing is important to provide a picture of what's happening at one moment in time, infection, prevention and control measures, including wearing a medical grade face mask?at all times?while at work, and proper?cohorting?of people infected with COVID-19,?continue to be the?most effective?ways to decrease COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

Physical activity while physically distancing

Lastly, with the weather warming up, many more people will be taking advantage of the outdoors for exercise, which is encouraged.  Physical activity and getting fresh air are important for our overall physical and mental wellness; I advise everyone who can go outside, to do so, in a safe way.

It is important to take care of our mental and physical health. Our neighbourhood sidewalks, streets, and?multiuse paths?are all still available to get outside and get moving. For most people, it is okay to go out for a walk, run or ride your bike, as long as you can continue to practice physical distancing.

Others may need to stay in their homes for their own safety and/or the safety of the community, like if you’ve recently returned from outside Canada, if you’ve come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 – even if they are mild. Ottawa Public Health’s website has new information on staying safe while being physically active in our neighborhoods as well as questions to consider before going outside. ?Visit our website for information to stay safe when doing these activities.

Thank you to our entire community for all the actions taken – these actions matter.?Take the time to go outside and enjoy the warmer weather while staying safe.

April 23, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

I am proud of what the people of Ottawa have done to protect our community since the start of the COIVD-19 pandemic. So many people have been willing to protect others, care for others, and have stepped up to help others. This good will and hard work are appreciated, and will be needed as we continue to learn to live with COVID-19. I know I can trust Ottawa residents to continue doing what is needed to prevent an unmanageable increase in infections in our community into the future.

Todays’ update focuses on some of the work that Ottawa Public Health is doing with different sectors, such as businesses, as we plan to safely move towards a way to live and work that is more sustainable in the long term, when the time is right. 

OPH is working with the City’s Senior Leadership Team, members of the business community, various community services partners, and many other stakeholder groups to figure out the best way to gradually and safely move forward with COVID-19 in our community, following direction from the province of Ontario, in coordination with the federal government. We must ensure we continue to protect those people that are most vulnerable, such as residents in long-term care and retirement homes. 

Relaxing of restrictions will take time – and we are not quite there yet. Protecting people has been the priority and will continue to be a priority. Most people are not immune to COVID-19. So, when we begin to relax measures and increase our interactions with other people, we expect there will be an increase in transmission of the virus. COVID-19 will be a part of our lives and how we live into the foreseeable future. We need to find a balance of risks and benefits of easing restrictions, including identifying what we can do to mitigate risks. 

Members of the business community want to help ensure that the opening up of economic activity is done safely, so that businesses do not need to face closing a second time. Businesses are thinking about ways to operate differently to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID-19. For example, having more people working from home, changing the set-up in some offices and businesses, and considering ways for employees and customers to wear masks and have easy access to wash their hands will all help decrease COVID-19 transmission. The desire to move ahead carefully is consistent with the direction of the province. The Premier has said that any changes will be implemented in a phased approach. There will not be one date for everything to change and return to normal.   

I appreciate the engagement with partners, stakeholders, and residents. We will work together as a community to inform how we will learn to live with COVID-19 in the coming months.

Lastly, a reminder during current religious holidays, that physical distancing measures are still needed and the provincial emergency order in place requires people gather in groups of less than 6. I encourage you to find new ways to celebrate virtually with family and friends and to limit your contact to members of your own household as much as possible. 

April 21, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

COVID-19 peak in Ontario vs Ottawa

Yesterday, the province of Ontario released updated modelling which shows the enhanced public health measures, including staying home and practicing physical distancing, are working to contain the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. However, the Premier, Minister of Health and Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, agree these measures must remain in place to continue reducing the number of cases and deaths.

While this is strongly encouraging, it is too soon to say that we are currently peaking here in Ottawa. We are waiting for more evidence to show that COVID-19 is slowing down in our community, particularly based on the number of hospitalizations, which follow the rate of infection by about a week. While hospitalizations have stabilized over the last week, we want to see this number start to go down before we can confidently say COVID-19 has peaked in Ottawa. Therefore, I am asking residents to continue practicing physical distancing and to stay home except for essential trips, like for groceries and physical activity. What we’re doing is working but now is not the time to relax these measures and undo the hard-won progress we have made together.

People living in long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings still need the protection provided by the community doing its part.  Healthcare workers still do not have as much personal protective equipment as they will need into the future.  And, the province is still working on building a surveillance system and testing strategy essential for monitoring the levels of infection in our community that could rise with relaxing restrictions.

For the latest epidemiological data for Ottawa, visit our website.

Masks

I know there has been evolving messaging about whether or not to wear a mask. If you are coughing or sneezing, wear a non-medical mask to protect people around you from getting sick. This is very important if you go to an appointment, clinic or a hospital. Do not go to other public places when you are sick, even if you are wearing a mask.

If you are not sick or not displaying symptoms and are going to a public place (e.g., grocery store or pharmacy) wearing homemade masks or  face coverings may offer some additional protection to those around you where maintaining physical distancing is difficult.

Additionally, I’d like to remind residents that medical masks and N95 respirators should not be worn by healthy community members since they need to be protected for healthcare workers

For more information on masks, please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks.

Long-term care and retirement home outbreaks

I continue to express my condolences to those who are impacted by the outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes be it staff, residents or family members.

I am encouraged by the way the government has enabled staffing levels to be addressed to ensure homes have enough support. OPH continues to work with healthcare partners to ensure long-term care and retirement homes are a top priority for protection.

I get a lot of questions about testing in long-term care and retirement homes. When there is an outbreak in a home or congregate setting, all healthcare workers are tested regardless of whether they have symptoms. Close contacts of a positive case are also tested regardless of symptoms. And, testing is not the solution because regardless of the result, someone could be in the early stages of an infection or go on to become infected.   What is absolutely vital is using proper personal protective equipment, keeping cases isolated and consistently incorporating proper infection prevention and control measures. This is what will protect people the most and this is also the focus of OPH and our healthcare partners.

Case contacting and follow up

I’d like to address how Ottawa Public Health investigates and follows up with each positive case of COVID-19. OPH has a mandate to follow up with all persons who test positive for COVID-19 as well as their close contacts. Each case is monitored on a daily basis, meaning my team will reach out to each positive case and their close contacts every day for 14 days to see how each person is doing, provide information and address questions and concerns. The reason it is so important to check in daily is so OPH can ensure cases and close contacts are following proper home isolation guidelines and to provide clear direction on what each individual should be doing to protect themselves and others. Additionally, this is a new disease so daily follow up is imperative in recording information on how the disease is progressing.

I’d like to acknowledge my case management team who has undertaken this crucial undertaking. Consistent case follow up is one of the many things OPH is doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Thank you

Thank you for your collaboration in practicing physical distancing and for finding new and innovative ways of supporting each other including by providing donations and making homemade masks.  This is very important work that we encourage volunteers continue. 

I want to thank the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) for their support during this crisis to significantly enhance our capacity with over 100 nurses for triaging, test results, case management and contact tracing.  Our City of Ottawa partners deserve recognition and thanks. Other City departments have been supporting our efforts in various ways, including the redeployment of resources to OPH and support of the Human Needs Task Force and the Business Task Force, among other things. Thanks also to  our healthcare system partners for their continued efforts to increase capacity, share resources, facilitate patient flow, and so many other aspects of this response. Lastly, I want to thank the media for their continued work in ensuring residents have accurate, timely information. 

For an in-depth review of OPH’s work on the COVID-19 response to date, you can watch yesterday’s Board of Health meeting on YouTube. Residents can also tune in to tomorrow’s City Council meeting on YouTube or on Rogers TV.

April 21, 2020 - Joint message from Ottawa’s medical chiefs of staff 

Ottawa area hospitals: If you need care, please come to or connect with your hospital

OTTAWA – April 21, 2020 - As the community continues to follow physical distancing recommendations from Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa area hospitals want to remind the public to continue to come to hospital if they think they have a serious health concern. We appreciate that the public is taking the recommendations to stay home so seriously, but it should not come at the cost of one’s health or safety. If you are in need of urgent medical attention, please go to your nearest Emergency Department or call 911 right away.

Hospital staff are taking every necessary precaution to ensure the health and safety of our patients, caregivers, staff, and community. Our staff and medical staff are ready and able to care for you in the safest way possible.

There are a number of clinical programs that continue to run and care for patients in need, in person and virtually.

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute has maintained capacity to provide care for all cardiac emergencies. Please don’t ignore your heart symptoms. A delay in seeking care could have a lasting impact on the outcome of your treatment. It is important for all patients to keep in touch with their family doctor, and other specialists (like cardiologists) who manage their care. In select cases, a virtual or telephone consultation with one of our cardiologists may be appropriate.

While we are all encouraged to stay home whenever possible, we understand that for some, home is not always a safe place. The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program, run out of the Civic Campus Emergency Department, is still here to care for patients who have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence. The program is offering virtual follow-up clinics, to provide access to care for those unable to come to the hospital. There are also sexual assault programs run out of CHEO and Cornwall Community Hospital. Please contact the one closest to you.

As the regional stroke centre, The Ottawa Hospital also wants to remind the public not to ignore the symptoms of a stroke at the first onset. Time is of the essence when treating any condition, especially a stroke. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you think you might be experiencing a stroke.

We also know that increased stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic can bring or worsen mental health and substance use issues. If you are struggling, please reach out for help. As many of you are aware, The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre has opened an urgent access mental health clinic to help individuals who are at risk of declining mental health or hospitalization. The C-PROMPT clinic is available with a referral from your primary care provider. CHEO offers mental health support for any children or youth in need.

While there are changes to some of the substance use services in our community, many programs are still offering services—but changing the way they are offered, such as offering virtual counselling. The Royal’s Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders is open and accepting new clients. This includes a Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic that is providing services virtually during the pandemic. To access these substance use services at The Royal, call 613-722-6521 ext. 6508.    

At CHEO, many clinics are connecting virtually with children and youth who have existing relationships with the care teams there. However, CHEO has seen a 70 per cent drop in new cases of diabetes in the last 30 days, and those children and youth who have gone to the Emergency Department are sicker than is expected normally. And while CHEO unfortunately continues to see new cases of childhood cancer, some of these children and youth are only coming in to be seen after the symptoms have been around for longer than they would usually see.

The COVID-19 Care Clinics in the west and east ends continue to provide treatment for individuals who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory illness requiring a medical assessment, such as coughs, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. The clinic in the west end is operated by Queensway Carleton Hospital staff, while the clinic in the east end is operated by Hôpital Montfort – both with the help of community primary care physicians and pediatricians.

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Media contacts:

Bruyère:

Jesse Cressman Dickinson, jcressmandickinson@bruyere.org

CHEO:

Paddy Moore, pmoore@cheo.on.ca

Montfort:

Martin Sauvé, martinsauve@montfort.on.ca

Queensway Carleton Hospital:

D.G. Stringer, dgstringer@gmail.com

The Ottawa Hospital:

Michaela Schreiter, mschreiter@toh.ca

The Royal:

Karen Monaghan, karen.monaghan@theroyal.ca

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute:

Leigh B. Morris, lmorris@ottawaheart.ca

April 17, 2020 – Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches

April 17, 2020 – 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.

Cases and new deaths

As of 4 pm on April 16, 2020, OPH is investigating?728 lab-confirmed cases?(50 newly reported since yesterday).?An increase in testing and possibly the expanded testing recommendations might be contributing in part to the increase in newly-identified cases.?   

Of great concern and with sadness is the increase of seven new deaths since yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths in Ottawa to 21.

This number is the largest recorded number of deaths in Ottawa in one day since the beginning of this emergency response. All seven deaths are related to outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes. Fifty-seven percent (12/21) of all deaths due to COVID-19 in Ottawa are related to outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes.

My thoughts are with the family members, friends, and caregivers of the people who have died. OPH continues to work with health care partners to ensure long-term care and retirement homes are a top priority for protection.

It is encouraging that 42 per cent of confirmed cases have been resolved. Hospitalizations (37) and ICU admissions (13) are down slightly.

A further breakdown of epidemiological data can be found on our website.

Consideration for reducing physical distancing measures

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.

April 16, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

Expanded testing criteria

The Province has again increased the categories of people eligible for testing:

These expanded criteria will allow us to test more people and get a better sense of the potential scope of infection in our community. This is important into the future to enable more targeted strategies and the eventual relaxation of restrictions. I encourage everyone that meets these criteria testing to get tested. We are starting to see the testing numbers increase again.

Managing mental health

We know that this situation is taking a toll on people’s mental health. This was a common concern shared on Twitter this morning when I asked for residents’ ideas on how we can sustain physical distancing measures a bit longer.  Everyone will experience this situation in their own way. It is completely natural to feel stress and concern during these times and so it is important to practice positive coping strategies.

Our team has added various resources on the Ottawa Public Health website, including a video on maintaining your mental health and a list of telephone, text or chat services. These may be helpful to you. However, if you are in crisis, please contact the Distress Centre at 613-238-3311. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Also, in response to the COVID-19 situation, the Walk-in Counselling Clinic is offering phone and video counselling services.

Wearing face coverings and masks

A lot of people have been asking if they should be wearing face coverings or masks when they do leave their home and go out into the community; this was also a common theme on the Twitter discussion about how we can sustain physical distancing. We know that there is some asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19; so if you cannot maintain physical distancing, wearing a mask helps to protect people you may come into contact with when you’re out in the community. It provides an added layer of protection.

Continue physical distancing

We continue to ask people to limit trips outside the home to essential needs such as for groceries, medicine or daily physical activity and to limit close contacts to members of their household. Thank you to the many residents who have provided ideas on Twitter about how we can be resilient in this difficult time; the top themes shared were about consideration for how our outdoor spaces can be used and for all to continue to spread love and kindness in different ways. I will take these suggestions into the planning process for when we are able to safely relax restrictions.

Our efforts are working. We are seeing signs of hope, but we need to keep practicing physical distancing in order to get to the other side of the curve.

Daily case numbers

Details about the daily case numbers are updated on our website daily. 

Lastly, I want to again thank the media for working diligently to keep residents informed about the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa. 

 

April 16, 2020 - Special statement from Dr. Andrew Willmore 

The Province of Ontario is taking important steps to protect some of the most vulnerable residents in our community - the elderly and others with medical needs?who live in long-term care facilities in Ontario. The safety of those most vulnerable to COVID-19 is of utmost importance.?Hospitals in the region are in compliance with this new directive and are in the process of actioning?the various recommendations.?Given the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic and response, Champlain Health Region Incident Command will be operationalizing the directive in the coming days and we will be addressing the nuances of this roll out.

We are working together as a region to build capacity across the system for patients.?Last week, we put processes in place to streamline transfers of COVID-19-positive patients requiring acute or critical care from smaller hospitals in the region to a select number of larger hospitals. This ensures that patients whose care needs cannot be met at their local hospitals will be moved to a higher-level care in a coordinated manner to balance capacity across our acute care centres. This process is running smoothly and has been used to facilitate several transfers. In addition, we are beginning to transfer patients with alternate level of care to regional hospitals to provide care in a setting that matches their needs.

By applying this regional approach to patient flow, we’ll be able to ensure that we’re continuing to provide the best possible care for our most vulnerable patients.

COVID-19 Care Clinics in the west and east ends continue to provide treatment for individuals who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory illness requiring a medical assessment, such as coughs, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. The clinic in the west end is operated by the Queensway Carleton Hospital, while the clinic in the east end is operated by Hôpital Montfort – both with the help of community primary care physicians and pediatricians. To date the clinics have provided care for nearly 500 patients.

I have an update on the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena: the Assessment Centre has new operating hours, and will now be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – seven days a week. Over the last month, the Assessment Centre has tracked patients arriving for care and the changes to the hours reflect that need for assessment. The care team has also been very successful in streamlining the process, allowing us to test more patients per hour than when we started.?Today was another busy day at the Assessment?Centre and we are grateful to the media for spreading the word on the new testing criteria. 

April 15, 2020 – Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health 

Today marks exactly one month since we first recommended that people in Ottawa reduce their contact with others to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This has required a major change in all of our lives. We have had to adapt our ways of getting support, like how we gather with friends and family. I thank residents for doing their part and give you credit for the success we are seeing in maintaining a level of infection that is manageable for our healthcare system to ensure that our loved ones can receive the care they need.   

This isn’t easy and we are not yet on the other side of the curve. We will keep communicating with the public to help people understand what is being asked of them.

Physical distancing

There is still a provincial order in place to limit gatherings to five people or less. The advice is still to stay home unless going out for essential reasons like groceries or prescriptions, to seek healthcare, help someone in need, or for daily physical activity.   

We keep getting questions from residents and community groups about what physical distancing means. Can you talk with your neighbour over the fence or from a distance? Yes, if you are maintaining a two-metre distance between each other, and you are taking care to avoid people gathering in ways that could lead to more risk. 

People are worried when they see others gathering in parking lots and<