What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 6

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

Key updates on COVID-19 in the region

A person lines up outside a testing clinic in the Hull sector of Gatineau. (Olivier Plante/Radio-Canada)

Recent developments:.

Hospitals in Ottawa are scrambling to meet staffing needs as hundreds of nurses in the city test positive for COVID-19, while nursing unions in Ontario plead with the provincial government to help. The Hawkesbury hospital is considering overnight emergency room closures.

Quebec's health minister says Quebecers will need to show proof that they are adequately vaccinated in order to enter Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) and Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) stores as of Jan. 18 and eventually, people will need three vaccine doses to be considered fully vaccinated.

Its residents age 45 to 49 can now register for a third dose as of tomorrow.

Ottawa Public Health is now allowing people considered to be in a priority group — such as people over age 60, education, child-care and care home workers and pregnant people — to sign up to get notified when same-day vaccine appointments open.

A dedicated third vaccine dose clinic for people over 60 will run at the Nepean Sportsplex today through Sunday.

There are currently 35 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19, according to Ottawa Public Health (OPH), three more than in Wednesday's update. Three people with COVID-19 are in an ICU, one fewer than the last update.

OPH reported the death of a woman in her 20s who had COVID, one of the city's youngest pandemic victims. Two more Hastings Prince Edward residents with COVID-19 have died and one more has in Renfrew County.

Ontario officials are expected to give a rapid COVID-19 test update this afternoon.

Numbers to watch

Testing can't meet demand during the Omicron surge, meaning people with COVID-19 won't be reflected in the case count. Numbers such as hospitalizations, test positivity and wastewater monitoring can help fill in some of the grey areas.

The number of Ottawa residents admitted to hospital for COVID treatment has been rising since around Christmas. Test positivity has been going up since the last week of November and the levels of coronavirus in its wastewater have been generally rising for about four weeks.

As of Thursday, Ottawa has had 47,687 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 8,389 known active cases — which may actually be three to 10 times higher — 38,672 cases are considered resolved and 626 people have died from the illness.

Local public health officials have reported more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 75,000 cases now resolved.

More than 150 local patients are in the area's hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, which has been steadily rising this week. Twenty-six are in an ICU, which is more stable.

In eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa, 260 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 224.

Akwesasne has had more than 1,500 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 18 deaths between its northern and southern sections.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory had 90 confirmed cases and one death. Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg has had 52 confirmed and one death. Pikwàkanagàn has 48 confirmed cases, all in this current wave.

What are the rules?

Eastern Ontario:

The province's private gathering limits are five people indoors and 10 outside until at least Jan. 26.

Indoor dining, gyms and museums are also closed, while other businesses and religious services can reach 50 per cent capacity. 

As movie theatres, gyms, and bars in Ontario shut down, at least for the next three weeks, the people who staff those places are out of work, again. We hear from longtime banquet server Mike Vorobej about the latest shutdown.

In-person learning is paused until Jan. 17.

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Ottawa schools are moving to remote learning once again amid record-setting COVID-19 case numbers, leaving kids frustrated at the interruptions to their education and social lives.

Local officials can also change rules and that's happened in places such as Ottawa for masks, the Kingston area for personal care businesses, Akwesasne for schools and Pikwàkanagàn for businesses.

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Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says there’s “some cautious optimism” as COVID-19 case numbers stabilize in the city, though the accuracy of those numbers is being called into question as test capacity is strained.

The province's vaccine passport is required for people age 12 and up in many public places.

People can prove they have at least two doses with a paper or digital document. These documents have to have a QR code and medical exemptions have to have one by Monday.

Western Quebec

Indoor gatherings involving more than one household bubble are prohibited. People outside between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a valid reason may face fines.

Restaurant dining rooms are closed, as well as places of worship except for small funerals. Indoor sports have also been cancelled.

All schools are closed to in-person learning until Jan. 17.

A vaccine passport is in place for most people age 13 and up in many public spaces. As of Jan. 18, that includes provincially run liquor and cannabis stores. People can use an app or show paper proof they have at least two doses; its health minister said in early January they'll eventually have to have three.

What can I do?


COVID-19 primarily spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, even after getting a vaccine.

Current evidence suggests the dominant Omicron variant is more contagious than other types of the novel coronavirus, but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

That level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk and is making staffing a challenge in many sectors, delaying many more medical procedures.

Hospitals, already overstretched by the pandemic, are also dealing with serious staff shortages right now. We talk to Rachel Muir, a nurse at The Ottawa Hospital’s birthing unit and the local bargaining unit president with the Ontario Nurses Association about the effect it's having on nurses.

Health officials say under Omicron, people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting vaccinated, staying home when sick and seeing as few people in person as possible.

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

People ski at Camp Fortune in Chelsea, Que., just north of Gatineau, in late December 2021. Masks are recommended outside and the province's proof-of-vaccination system is in use for the resort. (Félix Desroches/Radio-Canada)

    Ontario and Quebec allow some people to self-isolate for just five days under certain circumstances.

    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.

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

    The federal government is officially advising against non-essential international travel.

    People have to be fully vaccinated, pre-approved and test negative to enter Canada.

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

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


    Vaccines curb the spread of all variants of COVID-19 and go a long way toward avoiding deaths and hospitalizations, without offering total protection.

    Four COVID-19 vaccines have been deemed safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions.

    Health Canada has approved Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for children as young as five. Both local provinces generally recommend doses for kids age five to 11 be given at least eight weeks apart, with limited exceptions.

    Everyone 18 and older in Ontario can now try to book third shots, though local resources don't always meet demand, after 84 days have passed since their second dose. Fourth doses are being offered to older people in care homes starting 84 days after their third.

    People who are 50 and older can receive a third dose in Quebec, along with those who have certain health conditions. That is expanding in stages by age until Jan. 17, with the next coming tomorrow to age 45.

      There have been more than 4.5 million COVID-19 first, second and third 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.

      Local health units have some flexibility, so check their websites for details. Many offer child-only clinics and some are offering limited walk-in vaccinations again.

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

      Western Quebec

      The eligible can get an appointment or visit a permanent or mobile walk-in clinic.

      Clinics for children are in schools and kids will need written consent from a parent to be vaccinated there.

      Symptoms 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. 

      If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

      In eastern Ontario:

      Only high-risk individuals who are symptomatic or who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can get a laboratory-checked PCR test during the Omicron-fuelled demand, while others should assume they have COVID if they have symptoms and isolate.

      Qualified people can check with their health unit for clinic locations and hours.

      Daycares continue to remain open, but without more measures in place operators and parents alike worry they won't be for long.

      Rapid and take-home tests are available in select malls, libraries and LCBOsKingston-area family doctor offices, and some child-care settings when risk is high.

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

        In western Quebec:

        This province has also stopped giving PCR tests to the general public.

        PCR tests will be reserved for those in 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.

        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 Ontario.

        Akwesasne has COVID-19 test and vaccine clinics, with information online or at 613-575-2341. Residents can call that number to log a rapid test result. The neighbouring Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also offering tests.

        People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call the health centre at 819-449-5593 for a test or vaccine; email is another option for vaccine booking.

        People in Pikwàkanagàn can call a COVID-19 hotline at 613-401-0428 for updates on its changing response now that it has its first confirmed cases. It's offering PCR tests four mornings a week.

        Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test or wants to log a positive rapid test result can call 613-967-3603 and should watch the website for dedicated vaccine clinics.

        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.

        Ottawa's dedicated vaccine clinic for Indigenous people ends Jan. 15.

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