COVID-19 spread seems to be surging in Ottawa along with both Ontario and Quebec.
Quebec has an announcement tomorrow about its indoor mask rules with most currently scheduled to end next Friday April 15. Its public health director says the government is seriously considering keeping them longer.
Many health officials strongly recommend wearing masks indoors in public regardless of the rules.
Most City of Ottawa employees who did not comply with the municipality’s COVID-19 policy will be able to return to work today. The policy now only applies workers in high-risk settings.
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 in Ottawa’s wastewater has risen quickly to a new high, although that data isn’t available for the first wave.
There were 10 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Friday’s OPH report. None of them needed intensive care.
Ottawa has had 66,395 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 764 residents have died from the illness.
The wider region
Communities outside of Ottawa have about 60 COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 10 of those patients need intensive care. These numbers don’t include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
Recent wastewater data from the Kingston area include some of the highest readings of 2022. The wastewater signal is rising across Leeds, Grenville and Lanark county sites.
In the rest of eastern Ontario, 431 people with COVID-19 have died. The death toll is 293 in western Quebec.
Nearly 5.2 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 80 to 92 per cent; adults with a third dose range from 58 to 70 per cent. These numbers aren’t regularly available for western Quebec.
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. All of Ontario’s COVID-19 rules are expected to end April 27.
Some places may choose to continue requiring people wear masks, be vaccinated or both. Mask rules may be different in places that fall under federal jurisdiction, like the Ottawa airport.
In Quebec the plan is for mask rules to be dropped everywhere except on public transit next Friday April 15, with an end to the public transit rule in May. These plans may change given the surge in spread.
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 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.
Travellers who need a test have local options to pay for one.
How can I manage risk?
COVID-19 spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, even after getting a vaccine.
Evidence suggests the dominant Omicron variant, particularly its BA.2 subvariant, is more contagious than other types but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.
This level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk. Some indicators are rising again.
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 if possible and limit close contacts, while also taking community spread and vaccine rates into account.
Vaccines curb the spread of all variants of COVID-19 and go a long way toward avoiding deaths and hospitalizations, although they don’t offer total protection.
Six COVID-19 vaccines are safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions around who can get them.
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 select groups 84 days after their third.
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 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, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. 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.
Ontario and Quebec are using Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral prescription treatment Paxlovid on people at risk of severe COVID-19 problems who have tested positive. They have to start within five days of developing symptoms.
Ontario has clinical assessment centres where people can get a test and treatment. Quebec is giving it out for free at pharmacies with a medical professional’s referral.
Ontario and Quebec have limited laboratory-checked PCR tests to people at higher risk due to the demand generated by Omicron.
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.
The plan is for people in Ontario with a positive rapid test to eventually be able to get a follow-up PCR test. 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 information online or at 613-575-2341. It’s keeping mask rules at its government buildings for at least this week. About 1,900 residents have tested positive and 19 have died between its north and south sections.
People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call the COVID hotline at 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; 152 of those cases occurred since Dec. 3, 2021.
Pikwàkanagàn has ended its COVID hotline, referring people to its health-care services instead. 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 April 19. 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 had 91 confirmed cases until it stopped sharing its count in January, with two deaths.