Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Last night the Board of Health held its second meeting of the year. I provided a verbal update, which you can watch in full on YouTube and read a high-level recap below.

The pandemic has been a common stressor for all of us impacting our well-being and resiliency. After two years of living with COVID-19, many of us have various losses to grieve – the loss of loved ones, employment, social celebrations of important milestones, educational achievements. The losses are unique, and some have been harder hit than others. Recognizing this grief, I call on Ottawa residents to be compassionate and kind to one another as we make the transition to shifting public health measures, and we turn to recovering our well-being.

Some of us may need additional supports at this time, including those impacted by the war in Ukraine and other conflicts and people recovering from traumatic experiences with the unlawful protests and trucks in their neighbourhoods. Ottawa Public Health will continue working with the community and with partners to address concerns raised by people most affected, while we share information and resources on how to address harms caused by crises and emergencies that affect people across the city.

Update on local COVID-19 situation 

The COVID-19 measures that Ottawa Public Health monitors have been showing a steady decline since early January; however, we are seeing that decline begin to level off. As we navigate the changes in provincial guidance, a shift to individual risk assessment and risk mitigation is key. This means – especially if you or someone you live with is at risk for severe COVID-19 illness if infected – that you can still decrease the chances of infection by being vaccinated with a booster dose, wearing a mask in indoor spaces, practicing physical distancing and being careful about your number of close contacts, and time in crowds and in closed spaces. Please visit the Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 vaccination dashboard for more information about vaccinations in Ottawa.

Lifting of provincial measures, proof of vaccination

As of yesterday, proof of COVID-19 vaccination is no longer required for all settings, though businesses and other settings may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination.

Getting a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against hospitalization and death. At this stage in the pandemic, two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine does not provide sufficient protection and we strongly recommend booster doses for everyone eligible.

Ottawa Public Health will continue to closely monitor key indicators, such as how our hospitals are managing severe COVID-19 illness and new variants, and we will continue working with community partners to support people at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness. On February 25, the Province issued updated regulations that means local medical officers of health no longer have the ability to issue letters of instruction under the Reopening Ontario Act with regard to proof of vaccination requirements. At this time Ottawa Public Health is not planning to recommend further public health measures for Ottawa as provincial restrictions are lifted. I will continue working with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore to assess options should key indicators, including hospitalizations, start trending upward in a concerning way.

Public Health COVID-19 recovery planning

Ottawa Public Health continues to advance recovery planning for the organization to return to more of its mandate. While the plan is to scale back our COVID-19 response step-by-step, we must remain flexible and be ready to respond to pressures created by the virus when needed.

Ottawa Public Health is now in Step 2 of 5 of its recovery plan roadmap and is working to gather input from diverse groups to inform recovery planning and to identify community and population health needs now and into the future.

As part of the recovery planning, Ottawa Public Health is also examining how to support the community to recover. Many Ottawa residents will need time, space and supports to meaningfully recover. The pandemic has disproportionately affected Ottawa residents who faced health inequalities prior to the pandemic.

Community recovery is an opportunity for economic, social and health stakeholders – in collaboration with partners, communities and individuals – to come together to assess how the complexity of community needs have changed, and to shape new or adapted services together.

With respect to economic recovery, we acknowledge and understand that public health measures and provincial restrictions have affected individuals and the business community in many ways. Workplaces have had to adapt to various work models – with some employees working on-site, some working from home and planning for an eventual return to work in-person, while others have had to close due to restrictions. Our team has developed the Working Towards Recovery: Workplace Health and Wellness Guide to help support the mental health and wellness of employers and employees in the workplace.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that social connections and engagement in workplaces – in person – are an important part of recovery from the pandemic. This means reconnecting with friends and family, returning to in-person meetings and supporting local businesses, keeping in mind we need to do our own individual risk assessment and risk mitigation. People of all ages have been affected by social isolation and we can each help re-establish health-promoting connections. Again, let’s continue to lead with compassion and kindness towards each other as we have done time and again with patience and perseverance throughout the pandemic.