Ottawa

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 28

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

Key updates on COVID-19 in the region

Skiers and snowboarders are seen at Camp Fortune near Chelsea, Que., on Saturday. Several COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in western Quebec today as the province continues phasing out its pandemic rules. (Felix Desroches/Radio-Canada)

Recent developments:

Ottawa's COVID-19 trends are steady at higher levels than before the Omicron wave began. Ontario is making major changes to its pandemic rules tomorrow, taking away proof-of-vaccination requirements and capacity and gathering limits.

On Monday, Renfrew County reported its 13th COVID-19 death in February, meaning it has reported as many of these deaths this month as in 2020 and 2021 combined.

The President of the Treasury Board says federal government departments and agencies can start working on back-to-office plans again. This work was put on hold more than two months ago during the rise of the Omicron variant.

Bars in Quebec have been closed since Dec. 20, but they are allowed to reopen today with restrictions as Quebec continues its phased lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

Canada is easing several international travel measures today.

Numbers to watch

Testing can't meet demand during the Omicron wave, 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.

The average measurement of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater is slowly dropping. It's dropping or stable at the Kingston area's sites.

There are 16 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Monday's report from Ottawa Public Health (OPH). One of these patients is in an ICU.

The overall hospitalization number is higher if you include people in hospital for other reasons who also happen to have COVID-19. There were 66 as of Saturdday.

Ottawa has had 62,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 922 known active cases — a number that may actually be much higher — while 741 residents have died from the illness.

Outside of Ottawa, the wider region has about 55 COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 15 of them still need intensive care. These numbers don't include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.

In eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa, 385 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 287.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

For today, the province's private gathering limits are 50 people inside and 100 outside. Sports arenas, concert venues and theatres can be half full.

There are no capacity limits in restaurants, bars, retail businesses, cinemas and gyms. The government will lift all capacity limits on businesses and social gatherings tomorrow.

This is also the last day the province's vaccine passport is required for many public places for people above 12 years and 12 weeks old. After that, businesses and other settings can still ask for it.

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A vaccine mandate for staff and visitors in long-term care homes will remain in place for now.

Western Quebec

Private gathering limits at homes no longer have any restrictions, although health officials recommend 10 people at most or three households. 

Dining rooms and now bars are open at half capacity.

A musician wearing a mask plays guitar at the Minotaure bar in Gatineau, Que., last March. Bars in Quebec will be able to reopen Monday, although only at half capacity. Dancing and karaoke remain prohibited until mid-March. (Patrick Louiseize/Radio-Canada)

Theatres and places of worship can reopen with capacity limits. Retail businesses no longer have capacity limits. Gyms and spas are now open, and more sports can resume.

There are plans to change rules in stages until March 14, when capacity limits and the vaccine passport end.

That vaccine passport is in place for most people age 13 and up in a shrinking number of public spaces. People can use an app or show paper proof they have at least two doses.

What can I do?

Prevention

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 is more contagious than other types, but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

Though this wave has peaked, this level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk. Some delayed surgeries can now resume.

Health officials say people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting all vaccine doses as they're eligible for and staying home when sick.

Masks, preferably medical ones, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and in Quebec for people age 10 and up. They're generally recommended in crowded outdoor areas.

People stand in solidarity with Ukraine at a candlelight vigil outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Ottawa on Feb. 26, 2022. (Nafi Alibert/Radio-Canada)

Ontario and Quebec allow some people to self-isolate for just five days under certain circumstances. Quebec allows even less with some recent infections.

Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions get help with errands and have supplies in case they need to isolate.

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

Travel

Travellers older than 12 years and four months must be fully vaccinated to board a plane, train or marine vessel in Canada.

The federal government no longer officially advises against non-essential international travel.

People have to be fully vaccinated, pre-approved, asymptomatic and test negative to enter Canada. Travellers can now take an authorized rapid test instead.

Travellers walk through Toronto Pearson Airport Dec. 16, 2021. Canada's travel rules change today to allow some kinds of pre-arrival rapid tests. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The U.S. requires all adults crossing a land, air or water border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of departure.

The hope is that other countries will accept provincial or territorial proof of vaccination.

Vaccines

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 have been deemed safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions.

Both local provinces generally recommend doses for kids age five to 11 be given at least eight weeks apart for the best possible 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 do agree people shouldn't get it until they're feeling recovered.

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

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 dose. Third doses are available for everyone age 12 to 17 once 168 days have passed since their second dose.

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

Local health units have some flexibility, so check their websites for details. Many offer child-only clinics and limited walk-ins.

Pharmacies and some family doctors offer vaccines through their own booking systems.

Western Quebec

Those who are eligible can get an appointment or visit 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.

Health Canada has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 prescription treatment PaxlovidOntario and Quebec are using it at first on adults at risk of severe COVID-19 problems.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

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.

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

Only students and teachers who show symptoms at school will have access to PCR tests. Rapid and take-home tests are available for the general public at participating stores and in some child-care settings when risk is high.

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

In western Quebec:

Quebec has also stopped giving PCR tests to the general public.

PCR tests will be reserved for high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care homes, detention centres and homeless shelters.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are available in all Quebec daycarespreschools 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 for service, including testing and vaccines, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.

Akwesasne has COVID-19 test and vaccine information online or at 613-575-2341. There's help for people who need essentials while isolating. The neighbouring Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also offering tests.

It has had more than 1,850 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 19 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call the COVID hotline at 819-449-8085 for a test on Wednesdays if they qualify. Otherwise, rapid tests are available at the health centre.

It had more than 150 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-January, and 152 of those cases are 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 100 confirmed cases as of Feb. 18.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call its community health team at 613-967-3603, text it at 613-686-5510 or send it an email. It had 91 confirmed cases and two deaths until it paused sharing its count in early January 2022.

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