Ottawa·Q&A

Don't cross the Ottawa River, Etches advises

As Ontarians prepare for the stay-at-home order and other new restrictions going into effect at midnight, there's still uncertainty about what it all means. Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health says in the meantime, caution is key.

Ottawa's medical officer of health answers questions about provincial stay-at-home order

'We have wonderful resources across the river in Gatineau for outdoor activity. This is not the time to be crossing over to use,' Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches warned Ottawans on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

As Ontarians prepare for the stay-at-home order and other new restrictions going into effect at midnight, there's still uncertainty about what it all means.

Will you be able to skate on the Rideau Canal? What about going out for a distanced walk with a friend, or heading across the Ottawa River to hunker down at your cottage?

On Wednesday, CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning addressed some of those questions with Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Ottawans are being urged to use trails on this side of the Ottawa River instead of crossing into Quebec for outdoor activities. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

What do you think is the biggest change for the lives of Ottawans with this stay-at-home order? 

I think that it will make us pause before we go out the door. I think it'll make us think twice about, is this trip necessary? Do I need to do this? There may be some things we decide no, I probably don't need to do that right now, and then that gives the virus less opportunity to be transmitted between people. 

In the December lockdown order, individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation. Does this still apply with the new order? 

My advice to people is that when you are going to suffer, your mental health is going to deteriorate, you have to provide care to somebody else, those are essential reasons for leaving your home or for having contact with one other household. The message here needs to be, if you can manage living on your own without distress, then please do stay at home and connect with people virtually. But if [the isolation] is starting to affect you, that is a time to make sure you're connected with one other household. 

There are lots of questions about whether skating rinks, toboggan hills, parks are going to remain open. Do you have an understanding of that? 

I'd like to see that people are still able to use these outdoor public spaces. Not everyone has a backyard. It's important for people to be able to get outside, families too, especially. The message I have for people is, when you go out for physical activity and if it is going to be in a park, to  keep your distance from other households. Definitely avoid crowded areas. 

What about the Rideau Canal? Would you support that opening? 

It's a very large skating rink and a good option for people to be physically active, but if it looks like the crowds are developing or people aren't able to keep their distance, we have to revisit that. 

When it finally opens, the Rideau Canal Skateway is 'a good option for people to be physically active, but if it looks like the crowds are developing or people aren't able to keep their distance, we have to revisit that,' Etches said. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

What about physically distanced walks with friends?

The message from the government is this is a time to really think about every time you go outside of your house. If we can decrease our contact with others, the better. If it's not going to cause distress to a friend who's in critical need, then perhaps put those walks on pause. However, outdoors is better and distance is better. You can always wear a mask as well. 

What is your advice when it comes to walking in places that may be farther afield from your home? Going to another neighbourhood, going to a National Capital Commission pathway, even going to Gatineau Park?

I feel people's pain. I know we have wonderful resources across the river in Gatineau for outdoor activity. This is not the time to be crossing over to use them. The City of Ottawa also has a lot of trails and different green space to use. So, I just recommend people stick closer to home.

WATCH | Chelsea, Que.'s mayor hearing concerns about Ontarians:

Outaouais residents concerned about out-of-town visitors

CBC News Ottawa

7 days agoVideo
0:55
Caryl Green, mayor of Chelsea, Que., says she’s heard from residents who are concerned about visitors travelling to the area and increasing the potential for COVID-19 transmission. 0:55

What about people who have second residences in Quebec? 

When the province is saying stay at home, they mean your primary residence. They don't mean going back and forth between a cottage and a primary residence. 

How can people can be expected to stay home if they don't have the financial support they need from the province. Is that something that you were hoping to hear? 

I think it is a real issue for people when they are not able to have enough money to buy food or pay their rent, and I want people to know that the City of Ottawa has a human needs task force and emergency social services funding that will support people in that kind of situation. So people should call 311 to access emergency support if they're in that situation.

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