COVID-19 March 21 update: One new case, isolation centre set to open, NAC grant increases, low-risk offenders released and more

Only one new COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Ottawa.

OTTAWA – The provincial government added one new case of COVID-19 to Ottawa bringing the number of confirmed cases in the capital city to 20.

The Ontario government made the announcement today (March 21) on its website, which tracks new cases across the province once daily at 10:30 a.m.

Ottawa’s new case is a man in his 30s who became infected through close contact.  The man is now self-isolating. 

Overall, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the province now sits at 369, up from 308 on Friday. 

Six people have now recovered from the virus while two have died.

Isolation centre to open in Ottawa

LOWERTOWN – Ottawa’s first COVID-19 Isolation Centre is set to open in Lowertown.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson toured the Routhier Community Centre on Guigues Avenue, days before it opens as a COVID-19 isolation centre for vulnerable residents.

The facility started to be converted into an isolation centre Friday, and is expected to be ready for Monday (March 23).

It will house people in the shelter system who are required to self-isolate due to COVID-19. The city believes this will help mitigate the spread of the virus within the homeless community.

The city says it will consult with Ottawa Public Health to implement best practices for cleaning and maintaining the centre, both for its use as an isolation centre and before it’s returned to community use.

The city is still exploring options for families who may need to self-isolate due to coronavirus exposure, symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

NAC relief fund now at $200,000

OTTAWA – A relief fund in support of Canadian performing artists is now worth $200,000 after a huge donation doubled the amount today (March 21). 

The Slaight Music Foundation donated $100,000 to #CanadaPerforms. The fund was created by the National Arts Centre (NAC) and Facebook Canada. Facebook started the fund with a $100,000 donation last Thursday (March 19).

The NAC says the latest donation will allow it to select more live online performances and possibly extend the length of the program beyond the current closing date of March 31. The NAC said it had more than 1,400 applications for the program in the 24 hours after it was announced.

“This is an unprecedented time for our artists, our country and our world,” NAC President Christopher Deacon released in a statement. “Those of us who love the performing arts know how they can provide comfort and inspiration, particularly during times of trouble.”

“Canadians have long shared their love of the arts across our platforms and it’s moving to see so many performers coming together to bring joy to their communities during this difficult time,” Facebook Canada head of public policy Kevin Chan released in a statement. “As performance venues close and tours are cancelled, with the launch of this fund we hope to offer some financial relief for artists whose livelihoods are directly affected by the impact of COVID-19 and to put the value of our platforms to work in celebration of the Canadian arts community.”

Those chosen will receive a financial grant, and their performance will be shared on the NAC’s Facebook page. Audiences can then access those videos by using the hashtag #CanadaPerforms.

For more information on how to apply, visit the NAC website here.

Distress Centre call volume up

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Distress Centre is receiving an unprecedented amount of calls following the outbreak of COVID-19, but still encourage

Ottawa’s Distress Centre is reporting a 30 per cent increase in their call volume every day, with about 27 per cent of those calls relating to COVID-19 concerns.

That works out to about 200 calls a day. 

 “Seniors are worried about getting their groceries and medications, single parents are worried about work and child care, there’s the toilet paper issue, people are worried about their loved ones who aren’t back from travelling yet, there are concerns for those who are immunocompromised and just a lot of ‘what if’ questions coming in about what will happen after these few weeks of quarantine are up,” Distress Centre communication manager Leslie Scott said.

Feelings of anxiety are normal, Scott says, especially during unique times like these — that’s why it’s important to seek out help if those feelings become overwhelming. 

To help manage those feelings, Scott suggests getting plenty of fresh air while continuing to practic social distancing. Reading a book and watching a funny television series can also be good distractions.

“Now is a great time to start learning something new as well – a hobby you may have wanted to try out, doing some home renovations, or working out at home,” she said.

And don’t be afraid to talk to someone if feeling distressed.

“Reach out to a friend through Facetime, set up a virtual family dinner on Zoom or Microsoft Teams so you can still see those who you care about.”

Anyone who needs to reach the Distress Centre Ottawa and Region can call its 24/7 line at 613-238-3311. For additional information, visit the centre’s website.

Low-risk offenders released to reduce pressure on Ontario jails

ONTARIO – The province is releasing some low-risk prisoners early, to reduce the toll of COVID-19 on Ontario’s jails.

Correctional services will have the option of early release for low-risk inmates who are near the end of their sentences. Inmates serving time on weekends have been temporarily released and will not have to report back to the jail each weekend. Inmates convicted of violent crimes or crimes involving guns, are expected remain in jail. Parole hearings will be held through electronic or written methods.

The province has also halted personal visits at the jails.

Meanwhile, all family and criminal trials before the Ontario Court of Justice are being suspended in light of growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court, which handles the bulk of Ontario’s criminal cases but does not have jury trials, announced Friday (March 20) it is further reducing its operations during the public health crisis.

As a result, it says trials and preliminary inquiries will be put on hold until June, unless a judge orders otherwise. Judicial officials will remain available to preside over urgent matters. They will also handle some regularly scheduled matters, such as bail, remands and pleas for accused people in custody.

The court says it will rely on video and audio technology whenever possible to remotely address criminal matters involving people in custody.

“Although criminal and family courts remain open for urgent matters, all steps are being taken to reduce in-person appearances and to implement social distancing for matters that must proceed,” the Correctional Services released in a statement. “The Ministry of the Attorney General is working with the court and other key justice stakeholders to implement significant audio and video technology capacity to further minimize in-person contact for urgent matters that are proceeding.”

The move comes a day after Legal Aid Ontario announced its lawyers, which offer free legal services to low-income people, would stop working in the province’s courthouses until further notice due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association had also placed volunteer defence lawyers in courtrooms across Ontario to help during the pandemic but said earlier this week the volunteers would leave Friday at noon to protect their safety and that of the public.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has also dramatically pared down its operations in light of COVID-19, with only urgent matters proceeding as of this week.