- Two new COVID-19 deaths were confirmed Saturday in Ottawa, plus 35 new cases.
- Western Quebec health officials reported 25 new cases Saturday.
- Outaouais restaurants fear for their future as COVID-19 rules get extended into the new year.
- The Eastern Ontario Health Unit and Kingston will be in the yellow “protect” zone, starting Monday.
What’s the latest?
While Ontario set yet another COVID-19 case total record Saturday, the one-day tally in Ottawa was down significantly from the day before.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) confirmed 35 new cases yesterday, less than half the number of cases reported on Friday.
There were, however, two new deaths linked to COVID-19.
Today is the last day that people in the Kingston, Ont., area will be living under green zone rules, as the region will be upgraded to the yellow “protect” zone on the province’s scale as of Monday.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is also moving to yellow tomorrow, although that will represent a loosening of the rules as the region was placed in the orange “restrict” zone last week.
How many cases are there?
As of Saturday, 8,139 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. There are 399 known active cases, 7,374 cases now considered resolved and 366 people who have died of COVID-19.
Public health officials have reported more than 13,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 11,500 resolved cases.
Eighty-seven people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario, along with 70 in western Quebec.
What can I do?
Both Ontario and Quebec are telling people to limit close contact only to those they live with, or one other home if people live alone, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Travel from one region to another discouraged throughout the Outaouais. Ontario says people shouldn’t travel to a lower-level region from a higher one.
Ottawa and the EOHU are currently in the orange zone of the provincial pandemic scale, which allows organized gatherings and restaurants, gyms and theatres to bring people inside.
The EOHU will be moved to the yellow zone on Monday.
Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has said Ottawa’s situation is stable and people should focus on managing risks and taking precautions, such as seeing a few friends outside at a distance, to bring the spread down further.
Communities in the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health Unit will also be moved to yellow as of Monday. The health unit had previously been green, the lowest level.
Dr. Kieran Moore, the local medical officer of health, has been asking residents to not see anyone they don’t live with in person, even at a distance. The health unit also wants restaurant workers to get tested.
The rest of eastern Ontario remains in the province’s green zone.
The <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/KFLA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#KFLA</a> region is moving from Green to Yellow status at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 23, 2020. Find out what that means to you and your business: <a href=”https://t.co/obwQt3uLEt”>https://t.co/obwQt3uLEt</a> <a href=”https://t.co/CAOansv7Uu”>pic.twitter.com/CAOansv7Uu</a>
In Gatineau and the surrounding area, which is one of Quebec’s red zones, health officials are asking residents not to leave home unless it’s essential.
Indoor dining at restaurants remains prohibited and gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues are all closed.
The rest of western Quebec is orange, which allows private gatherings of up to six people and organized ones up to 25 — with more in seated venues.
This week Quebec announced what it will take to have a small holiday gathering next month and said rules won’t be loosened until mid-January at the earliest.
What about schools?
There have been about 200 schools in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region with a confirmed case of COVID-19:
Few have had outbreaks, which are declared by a health unit in Ontario when there’s a reasonable chance someone who has tested positive caught COVID-19 during a school activity.
Distancing and isolating
The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or speaks onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.
People can be contagious without symptoms.
This means people should take precautions such as staying home when sick, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean, socializing outdoors as much as possible and maintaining distance from anyone they don’t live with — even with a mask on.
Ontario has abandoned its concept of social circles.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who’ve been ordered to do so by their local public health unit. The duration depends on the circumstances in both Ontario and Quebec.
Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible.
Anyone who has travelled recently outside Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell.
Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. Children can develop a rash.
If you have severe symptoms, call 911.
Where to get tested
In eastern Ontario:
Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you’ve been told to by your health unit or the province.
Anyone seeking a test should now book an appointment. Different sites in the area have different ways to book, including over the phone or going in person to get a time slot.
People without symptoms, but who are part of the province’s targeted testing strategy, can make an appointment at select pharmacies.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Limoges, Rockland and Winchester.
People can arrange a test in Bancroft and Picton by calling the centre or Belleville and Trenton online.
Renfrew County residents should call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 for a test or with questions, COVID-19-related or not. Test clinic locations are posted weekly.
In western Quebec:
Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with symptoms.
Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau seven days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 avenue Buckingham.
They can now check the approximate wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.
There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.
Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis:
Akwesasne has had its most known COVID-19 cases of the pandemic this month, with eight known active cases on the Canadian side of the international border.
Its council is asking residents to avoid unnecessary travel.
Akwesasne schools are temporarily closed to in-person learning and its Tsi Snaihne Child Care Centre has also closed. It has a COVID-19 test site available by appointment only.
Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who’s been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte reported its first confirmed case this month.
People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259.
Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.
Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.
For more information
Province reports 1,707 new COVID cases today – SooToday
Public Health Ontario has confirmed 1,707 new cases of COVID-19 today, which is 39 fewer than yesterday. There were 1,746 cases reported on Monday.
Of today’s new cases, most are confined to the Greater Toronto Area. There are 373 new cases confirmed in Peel Region, 727 cases in Toronto and 168 in York Region; that represents 1,268 — or 74 per cent — of the new lab-confirmed cases reported over the past 24 hours.
The agency also reported seven more deaths related to the coronavirus over the past 24 hours. Yesterday, eight deaths were reported.
More than 1,373 cases have been resolved since yesterday.
Over the past 24 hours, 34,600 tests were completed.
Since the start of the pandemic, public health labs in Ontario have processed more than 6.3 million COVID-19 tests.
Throughout Ontario, there are 645 people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.
- Algoma Public Health: 60 cases, rate of 52.4 per 100,000 people. There are three known active cases.
- North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit: 79 cases, rate of 54.7 per 100,000 people. There are 10 known active cases.
- Porcupine Health Unit: 106, rate of 127 per 100,000 people. There are no known active cases.
- Public Health Sudbury and Districts: 230 cases, rate of 113.1 per 100,000 people. There are eight known active cases.
- Timiskaming Health Unit: 18 cases, rate of 55.1 per 100,000 people. There is one known active case.
- Northwestern Health Unit: 121 cases, rate of 123.2 per 100,000 people. The health unit has also reported two probable cases that are under investigation. There are 17 known active cases.
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit: 308 cases, rate of 168 per 100,000 people.There are 93 known active cases.
Some Ottawa Public Health programs slowly returning – CBC.ca
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has begun ramping up some community programs that were suspended at the start of the pandemic, but the city’s medical officer of health said not all will return to their pre-COVID-19 selves.
The pandemic didn’t just throw OPH’s budget into disarray but also how it offered many of its services, including chronic disease prevention work.
“These kinds of teams are completely redeployed to the COVID-19 response,” said Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, on Monday.
OPH also had to shutter its four dental clinics across the city that offered services to people who had difficulties paying for care elsewhere.
The St. Laurent Boulevard clinic reopened for emergency services last week, while the Wabano Centre clinic should reopen part time on Thursday, Etches said.
Those clinics together saw 140 clients a day before the pandemic hit, said OPH’s director of health promotion and chief nursing officer Esther Moghadam, and the hope is to get the other two open so vulnerable populations have easier access to one nearby.
While the clinics were closed, Moghadam said dentists across the community stepped up to help and will likely have to continue to do so until the clinics are at full capacity.
“It’s still very early … There is going to be a need that we won’t be able to address fully,” she said.
Another program that fell by the wayside was the Healthy Growth and Development Program, which Etches said is currently running at 50 per cent capacity.
Its breastfeeding support work is moving online or having mothers come to OPH or other community partners instead of nurses visiting them in their homes.
Not all programs are set to return to the way they once were.
“We’re looking to learn from the new tools we have, the innovative approaches that can be built upon and the partnerships that we have grown to extend some of this work into the future,” said Etches.
That future shift includes those services tailored at chronic diseases, which she said will change because private companies have been stepping up to help protect and promote employee health.
COVID-19 in 2021
Ottawa’s Board of Health unanimously passed its largest budget ever at its meeting Monday night, with $24 million of its $98.1 million budget for 2021 expected to cover a number of one-time COVID-19 expenses.
Even with positive vaccine updates, Etches said next year’s budget forecasts a similar amount of COVID-19 cases, outbreaks, follow-up and communication work in 2021 as exists now.
It is also expecting to help provide that COVID-19 vaccine to Ottawa residents “which we are hopeful, initially, will protect against hospitalizations and deaths in the people most at risk,” she said.
“That would be excellent.”
The budget will go to city council for final approval on Dec. 9.
Parents welcome asymptomatic COVID-19 tests in schools, even if the news isn't always good – CBC.ca
It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster weekend for Toronto father Yaser Nadaf, after Ontario’s new asymptomatic testing for schools in COVID-19 hot spots turned up 19 new positive cases at his children’s school.
While his daughter and her Grade 3 class were cleared to return to school on Monday, his son’s Grade 2 class must self-isolate for 14 days, even though the youngster himself was among those who tested negative.
The weekend’s testing blitz at Thorncliffe Park Public School — the first Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location selected for the voluntary testing pilot announced last week — saw 14 classes affected and sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.
Nadaf is rolling with it, saying he believes teachers and staff have been trying their best to maintain health and safety precautions and protocols.
“What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world,” he said. “They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely.”
Testing asymptomatic students and staff is currently being offered at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.
The goal is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions. While parents and health experts seem to be applauding the pilot, some are also highlighting shortcomings in how it’s being rolled out.
Over the weekend, testing also began in Ottawa at Manordale Public School, part of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Amber Mammoletti, an occasional teacher working at two schools this fall, dropped by on Sunday to be tested with her son, Flynn.
“I think there’s people walking around not realizing they have it — no symptoms — so it’s just better to keep everyone safe: Get tested if you can and see what happens,” she said.
WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:
School boards are working with local public health authorities to determine which schools to target over the next four weeks, but the expectation is that new positives will undoubtedly emerge, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
“The 19 cases we’ve learned about over the weekend [at Thorncliffe Park PS] as a result of the testing is a concern, but it’s not unexpected,” he said Monday.
“While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID.”
Despite the batch of positive cases arising from this first weekend, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce reiterated his assertion that “99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free” during a press briefing on Monday afternoon.
Acknowledging that “we still have work to do” in tracking COVID-19 cases in communities, he characterized the new testing initiative as an extension of the existing safety measures his ministry had announced.
“The fact that hundreds of children, students and staff have gotten tested [at Thorncliffe Park PS] in conjunction with the local public health unit I think underscores that the plan in place is … working hard to mitigate any further spread: identifying COVID cases, isolating them or moving them from the school, so we don’t have spreaders within the school.”
‘Canaries in the coal mine’
A targeted campaign of testing in schools — which in most neighbourhoods are considered trusted, known places — is a welcome tool that adds to the barometer of what’s happening in the communities they’re located in, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“Parents who may not be encouraged to go get tested in their local communities will readily take their kids to the school, which is a place they know,” he said.
“Things like this are going to be canaries in the coal mine. You kind of get a better sense of what’s happening in the community by doing these local testing strategies.”
He added the caveat, however, that the type of test being used will likely cause more chaos for families and schools.
For the pilot, Ontario is using PCR testing, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard, it’s also so sensitive it would “pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,” Chagla said.
He suggested that they could have chosen rapid antigen tests, which flag active infections by identifying proteins on the surface of infectious virus particles.
The rapid antigen tests may offer a more precise picture “of who is really a threat to the community versus who had COVID six weeks ago, where they’re not really a threat,” Chagla said.
WATCH | Nova Scotia offers rapid COVID-19 tests in Halifax for asymptomatic cases:
Though Toronto parent Jessica Lyons welcomes the introduction of asymptomatic testing, she said it comes months late and should be offered more widely.
“This is desperately needed,” said the mother of two school-aged children and an organizer with the Ontario Parent Action Network.
“Much more testing in schools — to make it accessible, to make it easy for parents and families and students to do — is really essential. So we support this pilot, obviously, but we think that it should have come … weeks and weeks ago, and it needs to be expanded.”
Back in Thorncliffe Park, among the Toronto communities hardest hit by COVID-19 this year, parents in the neighbourhood expressed concern about the new positive cases found through the testing initiative. But they’re also adamant about one thing: their schools staying open.
Remote learning last spring was “really hard for kids. We’ve seen the mental stress on our child and other kids,” said Osamah Aldhad, father of a second grader who he said really missed being at school.
“When we were kids, you know, we used to run away from school,” Aldhad noted.
“Now they’re actually really wanting to go to school, which is really important for them.”
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