Ottawa

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa for Monday, March 16

CBC Ottawa's latest roundup of key points to know during the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the symptoms and what should you be doing?

Dr. Vera Etches, with Ottawa Public Health, says local transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa may mean there are several hundred cases currently in the community. The agency is encouraging residents to strengthen social distancing measures, keeping one to two metres away from others. 1:32

Recent developments:

  • Canada closes borders to most people who aren't a citizen or permanent resident.
  • No one with COVID-19 symptoms will be allowed on a flight to Canada.
  • Only North American flights to Ottawa, other flights restricted to 4 airports.
  • Three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Ottawa Monday, bringing the total to 13.
  • OC Transpo only doing rear bus boarding unless riders have mobility needs; stepping up cleaning.

What is the current situation?

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said Sunday COVID-19 is now likely spreading in the community, and therefore people should limit "non-essential trips" out of their homes and avoid crowded areas.

She said there could be 200 to 1,000 cases in Ottawa, given that many are likely undetected.

Do you know the most effective way to use hand sanitizer? Ottawa pharmacist Chen Zhou explains the technique. 0:38

Public events are being cancelled, many people are being urged to work from home and most schools have either closed or have moved classes online.

The Treasury Board is encouraging all public servants to work from home if possible, with the final decision up to management.

A number of new closures — including many municipal facilities — came into effect Monday, March 16.

A child rides their bike past a door with a notice from Ottawa Public Health on March 14, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Kingston Transit is running Saturday levels of service six days a week starting Tuesday, March 17. Sunday service is unaffected.

Via Rail has scaled back its trips through the Ottawa area.

It's a temporary public health strategy aimed at slowing the potential spread of COVID-19 and buying time so the health care system doesn't get overwhelmed by a sudden spike in patients.

As of March 16, 13 people in Ottawa have tested positive for COVID-19, including Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

There are no further details about where they were, though one of them is a coworker of the city's first confirmed case.

Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, a woman in her 30s tested positive at the Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ont., over the weekend.

There have also been four COVID-19 cases in the Trenton, Ont., quarantine for returning cruise ship passengers and one in a person who visited Mont-Laurier, Que.

Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen said his mother was on the ship and has tested positive.

The local public health authority says there's no risk to the public in the Trenton area since none of these people have had contact with the public.

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health does say while there are no public confirmed cases there, they have 35 probably cases where people are sick and have either travelled or been in close contact with someone who's been in an affected area.

How do I protect myself and others?

Ottawa Public Health advises people to take the following measures to reduce the risk:

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay at home if you are sick, which includes not visiting others in hospital or a care home.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.
  • If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm.
  • Get a yearly flu vaccination.
  • Consider social distancing, or staying two metres or more away from other people. This is the reason behind many cancellations.
  • Self-isolate for 14 days if you're returning home from another country or spend extensive time with someone who has.

The City of Kingston is asking residents not to put used tissues and napkins in the green bin because they can blow around as the bin is emptied — put them in the garbage instead.

We check in with the Mayor of Ottawa and Gatineau on what this means for the capital region. 11:30

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 range from a very mild, cold-like illness to a severe lung infection. The most common symptoms include fever, fatigue and a dry cough.

A trip to the emergency room is necessary if anyone has difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to wake up and bluish lips or face, the World Health Organization says. 

Older people, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.

Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says the risk to the general public is low.

The coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also spread through close, prolonged contact, such as touching or shaking hands, and it can spread from person to person via surfaces like door handles, mobile phones, tables and light switches. 

There is no vaccine and no drugs to treat COVID-19. Hospitals can only help manage the symptoms. 

PHAC says it's investigating if the coronavirus can be passed from someone who has it without symptoms. Experts believe that's possible, but rare.

What if I have symptoms?

In Ottawa:

If you are experiencing shortness of breath or other severe symptoms, you should call 911.

People with mild symptoms should, as has always been the case, stay at home.

During this pandemic, Ottawa Public Health asks you to stay home until 24 hours after your symptoms have fully gone away.

These people are encouraged to read Ottawa Public Health (OPH)'s information page.

Anyone who has a new or worsening cough or fever and has travelled outside Canada or has been in contact with someone who has recently travelled in the last 14 days should go to the COVID-19 screening centre at the Brewer Arena. 

You do not need to and should not call OPH first.

If it's closed, call your health care provider. If neither are available, go to a hospital emergency room and look for special signs.

Do not take public transit, a taxi or use a ride-hailing service.

In western Quebec:

Anyone who's left the country should call the province's toll-free line at 1-877-644-4545 if they have a cough or fever.

Unlike Ottawa, don't go to a medical clinic unless you're told to.

If you're experiencing severe symptoms, call that number if you can to give authorities a heads-up. The nurse will give you further instructions.

Anyone who hasn't left the country who has a cough or fever should self-isolate and call the toll-free number for advice.

Psychological support is available at 811.

CBC News Network showcases the best of CBC journalism, covering breaking stories with speed, and adding context and meaning along the way. CBC News Network is also the destination for original journalism, with added depth from CBC News bureaus across the country and around the world. NaN:NaN

In eastern Ontario outside Ottawa:

In general the province says to call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or your local health unit if you are experiencing symptoms.

There have been waits to speak to someone on Telehealth and Monday, the province said it was bringing in more nurses to work the lines.

The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking that you only call them at 613-966-5500 if you've checked their website and still have questions or if you develop symptoms after leaving the country. 

Kingston's public health unit says check its website and call Telehealth with remaining questions.

Renfrew County's unit says to only call them at 613-735-8654 extension 577 if you have symptoms and have returned to Canada within 14 days.

If you need medical attention immediately, call 911 and mention any travel outside the country.

Again, avoid public transit.

The government of Ontario has put out a self-assessment tool.

How do we get tested?

The Brewer Arena centre is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 151 Brewer Way, off Bronson Avenue near Carleton University.

It's meant to divert non-emergency cases away from hospitals.

Gatineau's downtown assessment location at 135 blvd Saint-Raymond has also opened.

It can do 56 tests a day and the test results take about 24 hours.

That city has not yet had a confirmed case — nor has Kingston, with an assessment centre for anyone with symptoms at Hotel Dieu Hospital at 166 Brock St., open 1 to 8 p.m.

Renfrew County is providing home testing under some circumstances.

Medical staff prepare for the opening of the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Park Arena in Ottawa, during a media tour on Friday, March 13, 2020. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

For more information

What about travelling?

The prime minister said Monday, March 16 no one who is displaying symptoms will be permitted to board a flight to Canada and that air operators will be required to complete a basic health assessment of every passenger.

As another measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Trudeau said international flights will be funnelled to airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver to enhance screening.

Other airports, including Ottawa's, can still welcome flights from North America.

The government is telling all Canadians travelling anywhere internationally to return to Canada while they still can. 

Travel advice from the federal government can be found on Global Affairs Canada's website.

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