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Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, Ottawa Public Health

Ontario moves Ottawa area to Red-Control level of COVID restrictions

Thursday, March 18, 2021 @ 2:15 PM | By John Schofield

Faced with worsening COVID-19 trends, Ontario is moving the Ottawa Public Health region to the Red-Control level of its pandemic response framework effective March 19 at 12:01 a.m.

According to a March 18 government news release, Ottawa Public Health’s case rate increased by 24.8 per cent from March 10 to 15 to 46.8 cases per 100,000 people. In addition, COVID-19 wastewater signal data in Ottawa is worsening.

Dr. Vera Etches

Dr. Vera Etches

The change in the area’s level of public health restrictions is being made at the request of the local medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, the news release noted. Ottawa was previously at the Orange-Restrict level.

“Ottawa has passed the thresholds for being in the “red” zone of the provincial framework used to implement measures to control COVID-19 spread,” Etches said in a March 16 statement. “This means we have had too many situations where transmission has occurred due to people being in close contact without a mask.”

Local medical officers of health continue to have the ability to issue s. 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and municipalities may enact bylaws to target specific transmission risks in the community.

“The recent modelling has shown us that we must be nimble in applying public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our communities,” Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in the news release, “and our government will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of Ontarians.”

Red-Control restrictions in the framework include limiting public events and social gatherings to five people indoors and 25 outside. Indoor religious ceremonies, weddings and funerals are restricted to 30 per cent of a room’s capacity, to allow for physical distancing. Restaurants and bars may seat a maximum of 10 people indoors and must be closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

On March 18, Ontario reported 1,553 new COVID-19 cases and 15 additional deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new cases has risen by about 35 per cent in the past three weeks. Toronto remained the worst hit, with 404 new cases, followed by Peel Region with 294, York Region with 176, Durham Region with 85 and Hamilton with 80.

In a March 17 statement, Ontario NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath urged the government to follow new guidance from the Ontario Science table to take vaccines directly to vulnerable seniors living independently in high-rise buildings in hot-spot communities.

“It’s not enough to pass the buck to overstretched public health units,” she said. “The premier of Ontario must bring all the resources of the province to bear on this challenge to help bring COVID infections under control and to fix vaccine inequities.”

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