OTTAWA – Two more residents have died after contracting COVID-19 and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 62 new cases today (Feb. 25).

There have been 439 deaths due to the novel coronavirus in Ottawa since March of 2020.

OPH is reporting 457 active cases of COVID-19 in the community today. There continue to be 21 people hospitalized with the virus – eight of whom are in intensive care (ICU).

Acute care hospital beds in Ottawa are again at 100 per cent capacity, according to OPH, while ICU beds are at 75 per cent, and ICU ventilator beds are 31 per cent full.

There is one new outbreak listed on OPH’s COVID-19 dashboard after a staff member tested positive for the virus at the Manotick Place Retirement Community. OPH says there are 23 ongoing outbreaks at healthcare institutions; four at local schools; three at childcare centres; three at workplaces; and one within a community organization. 

Residents being tested for COVID-19 are reporting positive results 2.1 per cent of the time. The city has administered 48,278 of the 57,820 COVID-19 vaccine doses it’s received, to date. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 14,532 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, of which 13,636 have been resolved.

Ontario is reporting 1,138 new cases of COVID-19, Thursday, including 20 in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s region, two in Renfrew County and none in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark district.

Dr. Etches says return to red zone possible

OTTAWA – Ottawa’s medical officer of health says she’s seeing signs COVID-19 rates are starting to creep up again.

“If we [limit social contacts] now, we won’t see [infection numbers] go up as far,” Dr. Vera Etches said in her media availability yesterday (Feb. 24). “But unfortunately, we’re still looking at a rise, most likely.”

The doctor says she thinks Ottawa could fall into the red-control tier of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework as early as next week, because of how residents acted two weeks ago.

“Sometimes just that very message, like, we’re going to come out of lockdown, gives the message, ‘it’s okay [to socialize a bit more],” Etches said. “And people gather just a little bit more in a more relaxed way, [with] a little bit less attention to distance, a little less masking, more connection, and that, on its own, we’ve seen it every time there’s been an announcement that things are going to open again or go back, it’s a little bit like it sends that signal, that our guard just doesn’t stay up.”

Etches says the decisions residents make today will affect what the community sees in two weeks, in terms of COVID-19 rates. 

“We want to stay out of lockdown,” she said. “And we can.”

Queensway-Carleton Hospital vaccination clinic ready to work

KANATA – The Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) says it’s finished preparing a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at its facility, and is ready to open it in support of the regional vaccination rollout.

The clinic is expected to help the city expand access to the vaccine, once supply ramps up.

QCH will administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as it has the necessary space and equipment to safely house it onsite. 

“Our vaccine clinic will help with the speed and efficiency of the vaccine rollout in Ottawa,” pharmacy director and lead for the vaccine clinic Joe Dagenais said. “Our staff retrofitted an area of the hospital into a fully functional vaccine clinic, complete with its own entrance. We have completed dry runs of patient flow and are ready to go. We wanted to ensure everyone felt safe when they came for their appointments.”

The clinic will be operated by QCH physicians, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and volunteers.

QCH is working with OPH and other regional health partners to facilitate the administration of the vaccines. The hospital says appointments will be contingent on the availability of the vaccine in Ottawa and will be booked by QCH to groups identified by Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program. Appointments are not available for the general public at this time.

“It’s a minor miracle we have such an effective vaccine available so soon after COVID-19 was identified. It is safe and effective – and it’s a good step towards helping our community get some normalcy back,” QCH President and CEO Dr. Andrew Falconer said. “While we all still have work to do, this vaccine gives us all a little hope for the future.”

In the meantime, QCH will continue to support vaccination strike teams to higher-risk groups in the community. 

Ontarians over 80 start receiving vaccine end of March

ONTARIO – The provincial government says Ontarians aged 80 and older will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the third week of March, with the province planning to target seniors in decreasing five-year age increments until 60-year-olds get the shot in July.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine rollout, announced the timeline yesterday (Feb. 25) while noting the schedule is dependent on supply. He did not provide details on when residents younger than 60 could expect a vaccine.

An online booking system and service desk will become available on March 15 and people in that 80 and older age range, or those booking for them, can access it, Hillier said.

Residents will be notified about the availability of vaccines through media announcements, flyers delivered to households and phone calls from health units, Hillier said, who asked that families and community groups help those 80 and olfrt book their shots.

“Let’s make sure we look after them and help them get that appointment,” he said.

Ontario aims to vaccinate adults aged 75 and older starting April 15, and those 70 and older starting May 1.

People aged 65 and older will be vaccinated starting June 1, and those 60 and older can get their shots the following month.

Vaccinations in populations considered high-risk, including Indigenous adults, will be ongoing as the province targets seniors in the general population.

Essential workers will likely begin getting their shots in May if supply allows, but the government is still deciding who will be in that group.

Hillier said he would have liked to see the booking system up and running sooner but noted it hadn’t been required for the high-priority populations the province has so far focused on vaccinating, such as those in long-term care.

He added some private-sector companies with large operations have offered to vaccinate their essential workers, their families and communities when the time comes and the province intends to take up those offers.

“We will take advantage of all of it,” Hillier said.

Shots will be administered at pharmacies, mass vaccination sites, mobile units and smaller sites depending on the public health unit.

The transition to vaccinate the broader population will ramp up as the province completes its high-priority vaccinations over the next week, Hillier said.

The vaccine rollout will enter a “transition phase” next week, with inoculations resuming among patient-facing health care workers. Shots were paused for that group late last month as the province focused on vaccinating long-term care residents amid a shortage in dose deliveries.

Second doses have also begun in some fly-in First Nations communities.

Vaccine supply will determine whether Ontario meets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge that all Canadians who want a COVID-19 will have one by September, Hillier said.

“I’d love to say, yeah, you know, by Labour Day weekend we’re going to have every single person in Ontario who is eligible and who wants a vaccine to have one. I’m a little bit reluctant to do that, because it depends on the arrival of those vaccines,” Hillier said. “I say this, if the vaccines arrive in the numbers required, we’ll get them into the arms of the people of Ontario.”

A total of 602,848 vaccine doses have been administered in the province so far.