What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Saturday, May 23

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

Key updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the region

Kayakers enjoy the nice weather in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Recent developments:

What's happening today?

As restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 gradually loosen, local public health officials are expressing cautious optimism about the pandemic's course — but reminding people to not let down their guard.

The National Capital Commission has opened parking lots on the NCC's urban lands, in the Greenbelt and in Gatineau Park for public use.

A number of roadways will be closed to motor vehicles this weekend to make way for pedestrian and cyclist traffic as part of NCC pilot projects:

  • The westbound lanes of Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway between Booth Street and Carling Avenue on weekends until the end of May.
  • Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway between Aviation Parkway and St. Joseph Boulevard on weekends until the end of May. 
  • Queen Elizabeth Driveway between Laurier Avenue and Fifth Avenue daily until the end of June. 
  • Gatineau Parkway, Champlain Parkway and Fortune Lake Parkway daily until the end of June.

The changes come as Quebec now allows outdoor physically distanced gatherings of up to 10 people from two or three homes.

The City of Ottawa eased restrictions on park amenities this week. The public can now use benches, picnic tables and shelters, although people are asked to continue staying two metres apart and to remain cautious about touching surfaces. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Many trails and walking paths in the region are now open, and the City of Ottawa has reopened outdoor sports facilities, multi-use fields and other park amenities. Physical distancing restrictions remain in place at all these locations.

The federal government is helping public health workers in Ontario trace close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, and is extending the offer of assistance to other provinces, the prime minister said Friday.

New economic numbers show widespread lockdowns caused Canadian retail sales to plummet by 10 per cent in March, the biggest drop on record.

A real estate expert says Shopify's decision to move to a work-from-home model even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends could give smaller tech companies the opportunity to land some of Ottawa's best real estate at a discount.

LISTEN: The NCC reopens parking lots, increase access to Greenbelt, Gatineau Park

The NCC is broadening access to its parks and green spaces in the Ottawa-Gatineau area as governments loosen COVID-19 restrictions on both sides of the provincial border. 9:34

How many cases are there?

There have been 1,887 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and 228 deaths linked to the respiratory illness. There are 2,971 known cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

In total, 2,239 people in the region have recovered from COVID-19.

The deaths of 49 people in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties and 28 more in the wider region have also been tied to the coronavirus. 


Confirmed cases are just a snapshot because not everyone can be tested and results take time to process, though testing criteria are being expanded.

What's open and closed?

Ontario is in "stage one" of its three-stage reopening plan. When ready, its next stage will take another step toward bringing more offices, outdoor spaces and gatherings back.

Quebec services such as dentist offices and hair salons can reopen June 1.

WATCH: What's still unknown as reopening ramps up

Ontario and Quebec have most of Canada’s COVID-19 cases and as infections continue, so do the concerns the provinces are reopening too soon. 2:04

Gatineau Park and provincial parks are now open with limits, like the National Capital Commission and Ottawa-Gatineau city parks

National parks start to reopen June 1.

A public toilet beside Knox Presbyterian Church in downtown Ottawa, placed to allow people including those who are homeless or precariously housed to access a washroom, is seen on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ottawa has cancelled event permits until the end of August. Quebec has asked organizers to cancel events until September.

Ontario schools will stay closed through the summer. Post-secondary schools are moving toward more online classes this fall, with the province promising a fall plan for younger students by July.

Quebec elementary schools outside Montreal are open. Its high schools, CEGEPs and universities will stay closed to in-person classes until fall.

Distancing and isolating

The coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People don't need to have symptoms to be contagious.

That means physical distancing measures such as avoiding non-essential trips, working from home, not gathering and staying at least two metres away from anyone they don't live with.

Ottawa's Shepherds of Good Hope shelter and service provider said it started offering tests to all clients and staff after they learned of the first COVID-19 case linked to someone who had stayed with it. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

Ottawa Public Health recommends people wear a fabric or non-medical mask when they can't always stay two metres from strangers, such as at a grocery store. 

Anyone who has symptoms, travelled recently outside Canada or, specifically in Ottawa, is waiting for a COVID-19 test result must self-isolate for at least 14 days.

The same goes for anyone in Ontario who's been in contact with someone who's tested positive or is presumed to have COVID-19.

People 70 and older or with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions should also self-isolate.

WATCH: Ottawa's chief medical officer of health says anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested

Vera Etches, Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health, says anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested, though widespread testing of asymptomatic residents isn’t yet possible. 1:15

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a dry cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. 

Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. The Ontario government says in rare cases, children can develop a rash.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

Everyone in Ontario who has symptoms of COVID-19 should present themselves for testing.

Where to get tested

In Ottawa anyone with symptoms can now be tested at the Brewer Arena from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., seven days a week, or at 595 Moodie Dr. and 1485 Heron Rd. those same hours on weekdays.


In Kingston, the assessment centre at the Kingston Memorial Centre is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for anyone with symptoms.

For local residents and employees who work in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area, there is a drive-thru test centre in Casselman and assessment centres in Hawkesbury and Winchester that don't require people to call ahead, and others in Rockland, and Cornwall that require an appointment.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark unit asks you to call it at 1-800-660-5853, ext. 2499 if you have questions after doing the province's self-assessment.

It has testing sites open in Almonte and Smiths Falls which require a referral, as well as a walk-in site in Brockville at the Memorial Centre and a home test service for people in care or with mobility challenges.

The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking people to call 613-966-5500 with questions.

You can still arrange a test if you have symptoms by calling one of its testing centres in Belleville, Trenton or Bancroft. If you're interested in the Picton centre, call the health unit, TeleHealth or your family doctor.

You may also qualify for a home test.

Renfrew County is also providing home testing under some circumstances. Residents without access to a family doctor can call 1-844-727-6404 if they have health questions after doing the self-assessment.

In western Quebec:

Outaouais residents should call 819-644-4545 if they have symptoms. They could end up being referred to Gatineau's testing centre.

First Nations communities

Local communities have declared states of emergency, put in a curfew or both.

Akwesasne has opened a mobile COVID-19 test site available by appointment only. Anyone returning to Akwesasne who's been farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who has symptoms can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nurse.

Pikwakanagan's council plans to let businesses reopen May 29 and Kitigan Zibi is keeping schools closed through the summer.

For more information

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