December 3, 2023

Recent developments:

As the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, hospitals caring for the country’s youngest patients are facing both high patient volumes and high levels of staff off sick.

OPH still considers there to be a high level of COVID in the city and highly recommends people take steps to protect themselves and others.

Quebec’s health research institute said the province’s sixth wave may be drawing to a close. Its interim public health director says he will decide early next week about whether to scale back mask mandates May 14 or wait a bit longer.

Moderna says it’s working on a submission to Health Canada for the approval a COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of six.

What are the numbers to watch?

Testing strategies have changed under the contagious Omicron variant and many people with COVID-19 aren’t reflected in case counts. Hospitalization numbers and the wastewater signal offer additional data that can help fill in the picture.

There’s more information in our daily story on key numbers.


The average level of coronavirus detected in Ottawa’s wastewater has been stable for about 10 days and is about nine times higher than it was before the mid-March spike.

There were 40 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Friday’s OPH report. Five needed intensive care.

Ottawa has had 71,382 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 777 residents have died from the illness.

The wider region

Western Quebec has about 95 COVID hospital patients, including those no longer considered an active case. Six are in intensive care.

Eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa has about 60 COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 15 of those patients need intensive care. These numbers don’t include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, which has a different way of counting patients.

Wastewater levels in Kingston are stable or dropping. In Leeds, Grenville and Lanark (LGL) counties, the signal is high and stable in Brockville and low and stable elsewhere.

Eastern Ontario as a whole has the highest regional wastewater average in the province.

In the rest of eastern Ontario, 469 people with COVID-19 have died. The death toll is 301 in western Quebec.

About 5.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Rates of eligible eastern Ontarians with at least two vaccine doses range from 81 to 92 per cent; adults with a third dose range from 59 to 70 per cent. These numbers aren’t regularly available for western Quebec.

How can I manage risk?

COVID-19 spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, including after getting a vaccine.

The dominant Omicron BA.2 subvariant is more contagious, but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

This level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk and can make covering for isolating staff a challenge.

Officials say people need to take personal responsibility as government rules transition to recommendations.

They’re urging people to get all vaccine doses they’re eligible for — especially if they’re over 50 — stay home when sick, wear medical masks in crowded and indoor spaces, keep their hands clean, distance, see others outdoors and limit close contacts, while also taking community spread and vaccine rates in the area into account.

What are the rules?

There are no provincial vaccination requirements or capacity limits in Ontario and Quebec. 

Masks are only mandatory in certain indoor settings in Ontario. Ontario’s COVID-19 rules have been extended until at least June 11.

Quebec has pushed back plans to lift most mask mandates until May 14 at the earliest. Clarity on that date should come next week.

Some places may choose to continue requiring people wear masks, be vaccinated or both. Mask rules may be different in places that fall under different jurisdictions, like the Ottawa airport.

Ontario and Quebec isolation rules have loosened for some close contacts. 


Travellers older than 12 years and four months must be fully vaccinated to board a plane or train in Canada. People age six and over have to wear masks.

People have to be fully vaccinated, pre-approved and asymptomatic to enter Canada without quarantining.

The U.S. requires all adults crossing a border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or recent COVID recovery.

Travellers who need a test have local options to pay for one.


Vaccines curb the spread of all variants of COVID-19 and go a long way toward avoiding deaths and hospitalizations without offering total protection.

Six COVID-19 vaccines are safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions.

Eastern Ontario

Eligible people can look for provincial appointments online or by phone at 1-833-943-3900.

Adults can book third shots once 84 days have passed since their second. Third doses are available for ages 12 to 17 after 168 days.

Fourth doses are being offered to everyone age 60 and above and select groups. The recommended time after a third dose varies.

Check local health unit websites for clinics and any locally specific rules. Some pharmacies and family doctors offer vaccines through their own booking systems.

Western Quebec

Eligible residents can get an appointment online by calling 1-877-644-4545. There are also walk-in clinics.

Everyone age 12 and up is eligible for a third dose; the general recommended wait time after a second is three months.

Fourth doses are available for people age 60 and above and some higher-risk groups.

Symptoms, treatment and testing

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, headache, fatigue and vomiting. If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

“Long-haul” symptoms can last for months.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.

WATCH | COVID and the unusually late flu season

Unusually late flu season hits Canada

Experts believe lifting public health restrictions may be to blame for an uptick in flu cases across the country, adding pressure to hospitals already under strain from the pandemic’s sixth wave. 2:02

Ontario and Quebec are using antiviral treatments on select groups of people with a higher risk risk of severe COVID-19 problems. Some have to start within a certain period of developing symptoms, some are preventative.

Quebec is giving the Paxlovid pill for free at pharmacies with a medical professional’s referral.

Ontario’s eligibility includes everyone age 70 and over. Its health-care providers are empowered to prescribe them to others and pharmacies are able to give Paxlovid alongside clinical assessment centres, where people can get a test and treatment.


Ontario and Quebec have limited laboratory-checked PCR tests to people at higher risk due to the demand generated by Omicron.

Ontario expanded this in April to everyone age 70 and over and immunocompromised adults, for example.

Qualified people can check with their health authority for locations and hours. Other people with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19 and isolate.

Both provinces are giving rapid tests away at participating stores and child-care settings. People can also buy them. People in Quebec can report rapid test results online.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Indigenous people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a PCR test in both Ontario and Quebec.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 on weekdays for testing and vaccines in Inuktitut or English.

Akwesasne has COVID-19, test and vaccine information online or at 613-575-2341. Its mask mandate now matches the June 11 Ontario date. Nineteen residents have died between its north and south sections and about 2,000 residents had tested positive until April 2022, when its northern section stopped sharing a total.

People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call 819-449-8085 for a test on Wednesdays, if they qualify. Rapid tests are available at the health centre. It had more than 175 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-January.

Pikwàkanagàn referrs people to its health-care services for COVID help. The community didn’t have any confirmed COVID-19 cases until December 2021; it had 114 confirmed cases as of March 11.

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte are keeping mask mandates for government buildings until May 2. Anyone who’s interested in a PCR test or vaccine can call 613-967-3603, rapid tests are available at the wellbeing centre on weekdays. It has two deaths and 91 confirmed cases until it stopped sharing its count in January 2022.


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