December 9, 2023

Recent developments:

Quebec public health officials have announced the easing of more public health measures as key health indicators continue to trend downward. 

As of Saturday, people who come into close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 but are not showing showing any symptoms have different isolation rules. High schoolers will also be getting their regular, indoor proms back.

Ottawa’s pandemic trends remain stable. Its medical officer of health says they are still relatively high and people should take precautions to counter remaining risks in the weeks ahead.

What are the numbers to watch?

Testing can’t meet the general public’s demand because of the contagious Omicron variant, meaning many people with COVID-19 won’t be reflected in the case count.

Hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring can help fill in some of the grey areas. There’s more information in our daily story on key numbers.


The average level of coronavirus in Ottawa’s wastewater is stable at levels higher than before the Omicron wave.

There are eight Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Thursday’s report from Ottawa Public Health (OPH). Two need intensive care.

There were 38 patients as of Monday if you include people in Ottawa hospitals from other areas or for other reasons who happen to have COVID-19.

Ottawa has 63,865 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 752 residents have died from the illness.

The wider region

Communities outside of Ottawa have about 40 COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 15 of them need intensive care. These numbers don’t include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.

Wastewater levels are rising or stable at sites in the Kingston area and stable or dropping in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties. 

In the rest of eastern Ontario, 397 people with COVID-19 have died. The death toll is 288 in western Quebec.

There have been more than 5.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, which has about 2.3 million residents.

Rates of eligible eastern Ontarians with at least two vaccines range from about 80 to 90 per cent.  Those third dose rates for adults range from about 55 to 70 per cent.

These numbers are not regularly available for western Quebec.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

There are no capacity or gathering limits. Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces.

On Monday March 21, masking requirements will be removed in most indoor settings. They’ll remain in place for public transit, care homes, shelters, jails and congregate care until April 27, when all COVID-19 rules are expected to end.

WATCH | Reaction in Ottawa to the end of mask rules:

Ottawa residents weigh in on upcoming end of provincial mask mandate

The province of Ontario will stop requiring masks in schools, restaurants, gyms and stores on March 21, though some Ottawa residents say they still plan to wear one. 1:31

The province’s vaccine passport has ended. Businesses and other settings can still ask for proof of vaccination.

A vaccine mandate for staff and visitors in long-term care homes remains.

Western Quebec

Gatherings at homes at homes have no limits, although 10 people or three households at most are recommended.

Dining rooms, bars, theatres, gyms, spas and places of worship can open with capacity limits. Retail shops don’t have any.

There are plans to end capacity limits and the vaccine passport on Saturday. That passport covers most people above age 12 in a shrinking number of spaces.

Masks are mandatory indoors in public for people age 10 and up, except for students in class. They will only be mandatory on public transit by mid-April, then that transit requirement ends in May.

People wait for a bus in a shelter on Rideau Street last March. (Brian Morris/CBC)

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, asymptomatic and test negative to enter Canada. Travellers can take an authorized rapid test.

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 primarily 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, including its BA.2 subvariant, are more contagious than other types but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

Though this wave has peaked and severe health problems are generally slowly declining, this level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk.

Canada’s chief public health officer says people need to take personal responsibility as government rules ease; people can get all vaccine doses as they’re eligible for, stay home when sick, mask, distance and limit close contacts, along with considering community spread and vaccine rates.

Medical masks are recommended over cloth ones.

WATCH | Infectious disease specialist says masks ‘imperfect’ but still help:

Masks should stay on for ‘time being,’ says specialist

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch believes masks should still be worn at this time because of the high level of Omicron still circulating in Ontario. 1:06


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.

Both local provinces generally recommend doses for kids age five to 11 at least eight weeks apart for the best protection. Some health authorities say parents can request a shorter interval.

Guidance varies on when, not if, people should get a third dose after contracting COVID-19. Experts agree people should wait until they’ve recovered.

Eastern Ontario

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

Everyone 18 and older in Ontario can book third shots once 84 days have passed since their second. Third doses are available for everyone age 12 to 17 once 168 days have passed.

Fourth doses are being offered to select groups after the same 84-day wait.

Check local health unit websites for details on their clinics. Pharmacies and some family doctors also offer vaccines through their own booking systems.

Western Quebec

Those who are eligible can get an appointment online, by calling 819-592-5861 or by visiting a permanent or mobile walk-in clinic.

All adults are eligible for a third dose; the general recommendation between second and third is three months.

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.

“Long-haul” symptoms can last for months.

Ontario and Quebec are using Pfizer’s COVID-19 prescription treatment Paxlovid at first on adults at risk of severe COVID-19 problems.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

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

In eastern Ontario:

Only high-risk people with symptoms or who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can get a laboratory-checked PCR test due to Omicron demand. That list is expanding to include home and community care settings.

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

Rapid tests are available for the general public at participating stores, for some workers and in some child-care settings.

The plan is for people with a positive rapid test to eventually be able to get a follow-up PCR test.

In western Quebec:

Quebec has also stopped giving PCR tests to the general public, saving them for high-risk settings.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are available in all Quebec daycares, preschools and elementary schools, as well as through pharmacies for the general population.

People can report rapid test results online.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis:

First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a 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. The neighbouring Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also offering tests and has ended mandatory masking. 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 since Dec. 3, 2021.

People in Pikwàkanagàn can call 613-625-1175 for tests and vaccines. It’s offering rapid and PCR tests three mornings a week. The community didn’t have any confirmed COVID-19 cases until December 2021; it had 112 confirmed cases as of March 4.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a PCR test or vaccine can call its health team at 613-967-3603. They can ask about rapid tests by texting 613-686-5510 or sending an email. It had 91 confirmed cases and two deaths until it stopped sharing its count in January.


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