Ottawa

Ottawa not seeking local COVID-19 rules as Ontario lifts provincewide orders

As Ontario lifts all remaining indoor capacity limits and the requirement for businesses to seek proof of vaccination from customers, Ottawa Public Health says it is not planning any local COVID-19 measures to take their place.

Vaccine passports, remaining indoor capacity limits phased out Tuesday

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, addresses the board that governs Ottawa Public Health at a public meeting held Monday night. (CBC)

As Ontario lifts all remaining indoor capacity limits and the requirement for businesses to require proof of vaccination from customers, Ottawa Public Health says it is not planning to seek any local COVID-19 measures to take their place.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, updated the city's board of health at a meeting Monday evening.

"We're not planning locally to recommend further public health measures as provincial restrictions are lifted," Etches said. "But it is clear that individual behaviours can either drive or deter transmission."

Etches said the city will keep monitoring COVID-19 indicators and shift to encouraging people to practice "individual risk assessment and risk mitigation."

"This means, especially if you or someone you live with is at risk for severe COVID illness if infected....being vaccinated with a booster dose, wearing a mask in indoor spaces, practicing physical distancing and being careful about the number of close contacts, time in crowds and time in closed spaces."

Etches used this chart to outline how Ottawa Public Health plans to gradually decrease its focus on COVID-19 and return to normal, pre-pandemic operations. (CBC)

Dr. Christopher Labos, a Montreal-based epidemiologist and cardiologist, said lifting restrictions, while still encouraging people to follow them, is problematic.

"That's confusing for people because most people, if you tell them that something is not mandatory, they interpret that to mean that it's not needed."

He said provinces including Ontario and Quebec should update vaccine passports to require three doses instead of phasing them out.

With businesses reopening, capacity limits lifting, and the vaccine passports being scrapped, many Ontarians and Quebecers are wondering what's open. All in a Day spoke with Montreal epidemiologist and cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos about the provinces loosening restrictions.

Some trends plateauing, not decreasing

The Ontario government has announced it will drop the indoor masking requirement, but has not yet given a date for doing so. 

Mark Cerullo, a father of two children in grade school, strongly encouraged the board of health to recommend the province immediately drop the mask requirement in schools, citing concerns about students' mental health. 

"I know a lot of mandates have been dropped in many different areas, but I feel like the children in a lot of ways have been left behind in this story and I feel like we're at a good point where we should be going there," Cerullo said.

The board did not do as Cerullo requested, and Etches cautioned that Ottawa is not yet at the endemic stage where things are stable. 

While hospital admissions, deaths and wastewater signals have continued to slowly decline since mid-January, last week saw a plateau in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 and in the number of new outbreaks in congregate living settings, which had previously been declining, Etches said. 

Even when the need for masks is lifted, she said some understanding will still be needed. 

"We want to respect that some people will want to continue to wear them. It's a big transition for some."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ontario.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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