Ottawa

City facilities closing as part of COVID-19 clampdown

The City of Ottawa is shutting down municipal facilities starting Monday including recreation facilities, pools and libraries until at least April 5 as part of the growing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Pools, libraries and other city facilities will close Monday until at least April 5

A health care worker uses hand sanitizer as they 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. The assessment centre, operated by The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO, is an out-of-hospital clinic where people can be assessed and tested for COVID-19 if required. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The City of Ottawa is shutting down municipal facilities starting Monday including recreation facilities, pools and libraries until at least April 5 as part of the growing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Recreation centres, pools, public libraries and other facilities where people gather will remain closed for the next three weeks, at which point the situation will be reassessed, Mayor Jim Watson said during a news conference Friday afternoon.

"The situation is fluid and evolving rapidly," Mayor Jim Watson said during a news conference Friday afternoon. "Remain calm and follow the advice of Ottawa Public Health and the Province of Ontario."

The city has gone into "activated operations," Watson said, meaning the city's emergency operations centre has been activated and all departments are involved.

Dr. Vera Etches, with Ottawa Public Health, says the centre will focus on administering tests to people with mild symptoms who have travelled outside of Canada or who have been in close contact with a confirmed case. 0:58

Client service centres to remain open

Client service centres will remain open, however the city is asking anyone experiencing symptoms to stay away.

"Please do not come to city facilities," city manager Steve Kanellakos said Friday.

Public transit will continue to operate, but Kanellakos suggested people who are still heading to the office stagger their commutes to avoid crowds on buses and LRT.

Both city-run and provincially funded child-care centres will remain open next week, but will introduce enhanced screening similar to what's in place at long-term care facilities, officials said.

At city hall, non-urgent committee meetings will be put on hold, the mayor said.

Dr. Andrew Willmore, medical director of emergency management at the Ottawa Hospital, says only people who have symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as a mild fever, will be tested at the Brewer Arena. 1:07

Closures in Gatineau

Meanwhile, across the river in Gatineau, Que., city officials there are taking similar measures.

In a statement sent late Friday afternoon, the city said all library branches, community centres and municipal arenas would be closed "until further notice."

The city said it would also be shutting the Lucien-Houle and Paul-Pelletier aquatic centres, municipal performance halls, and the Centre Sportif.

All municipal events attracting more than 250 people would be cancelled, as would upcoming public consultations.

City hall will remain open, however, as will the local eco-centres and the municipal court. Garbage pickup will also continue, the city said.

Testing centre open daily

Ottawa's first COVID-19 assessment site, at Brewer Arena, opened at noon Friday. 

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said it's intended for people who have experienced mild symptoms within 14 days of returning from international travel, or who have been in close contact with a confirmed case.

She said in its first two hours, about 200 people came to be assessed, but only 12 needed to undergo testing.

Instructions on what to do after that will come after the test, which involves a nasal swab.

Anyone without symptoms won't get tested, said Dr. Andrew Willmore of the Ottawa Hospital. Anyone with severe symptoms such as chest pains or dizziness should go to an emergency room.

Anyone in close contact of a confirmed case without symptoms should be self-isolating. Healthy people, including children, should not visit the testing site.

The site, a partnership between Ottawa Public Health, The Ottawa Hospital and children's hospital CHEO, will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day

Willmore said Quebec residents won't be turned away, but public health officials prefer them to seek treatment under their province's health-care system.

There are plans to open more sites in Ottawa and across Ontario to keep people who may be infected with the respiratory illness out of hospitals unless necessary.

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