Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Hello. Bonjour. Kwey.

With the highly transmissible Omicron variant, we know that COVID-19 activity is high and spreading rapidly in our community. We must do what we can to protect each other during this surge, especially people at higher-risk – people not yet fully vaccinated, immunocompromised individuals, older adults – and people who work in higher-risk settings.

Today there are 1,508 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ottawa, and 21 people are currently in hospital because of COVID-19 infection. With the current limited availability of COVID-19 testing, these numbers are an underestimate of the amount of COVID in our community. The information we have – available on the Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard – shows us that COVID-19 transmission is increasing at an exponential rate in our community. The positivity rate in Ottawa is now over 30 per cent, a significant increase compared to the beginning of December when it was around two per cent. The wastewater COVID-19 signal is also increasing steeply. The wastewater monitoring and the number of hospitalizations are indicators that do not rely on testing.

With so much COVID-19 in our community and reduced access to testing, we need to treat possible COVID symptoms as if they are a COVID-19 infection. New provincial guidance is shifting us to new practices in self-isolation when we have COVID-19-like symptoms, regardless of access to a rapid antigen test or PCR test. As we enter the first weeks of 2022, the message is clear: stay home if you are sick and until symptoms have resolved and stay home if a member of your household is sick. This will help protect people at risk for severe illness and slow the spread of COVID-19.

We heard yesterday from the Province about updated public health measures to provide additional protection to higher-risk settings while continuing to preserve hospitals’ capacity. I want to assure you that Ottawa Public Health will continue to closely monitor and report on the evolving COVID-19 situation in our community and explore introducing additional public health measures.

Over the coming weeks, everyone in Ottawa must focus on reducing transmission of COVID-19 to get to the other side of this Omicron surge with a more vaccinated, and more protected community. We have a lot of control when it comes to protecting each other, our loved ones and community to help get through this surge. For the next few weeks, regardless of your vaccination status, please:

  • Pause or greatly limit the size of indoor gatherings with people outside of your household, including pausing participation in extracurricular indoor sports and team play
  • Actively screen yourself and members of your household for COVID-19 symptoms, and stay home if you are sick
  • Get children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated with first doses, and book their second doses as soon as they are eligible
  • Book your booster dose as soon as you are able
  • Check-in and help older adults and neighbours who may be need support if they are isolating due to illness – help them book a vaccine appointment, help them with getting food or other essentials.

We know the process of booking booster doses has been challenging for some. The Ottawa Public Health team is working harder than ever to increase available vaccination appointments and protect our vulnerable sectors. Vaccination has saved lives and prevented hospitalizations from COVID-19 and it is continuing to do so. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to:

We know this continues to be a challenging time for families with children in school and in childcare. Ottawa Public Health is awaiting further guidance from the Province regarding schools and looks forward to sharing this information with parents and guardians as soon as it is available. In the meantime, we ask parents and guardians to continue to actively screen children for COVID-19 symptoms, and to keep children home if sick.

As we head into the new year, I encourage everyone to look out for one another, do your part to assess risk and proactively take actions to limit the spread of COVID-19. I know that together we will get through this surge and come out the other side. We’ve done it before and we’re doing it right now. Thank you, Ottawa for continuing to do these hard things. My best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy New Year.