May 12 COVID-19 update: Dr. Etches on National Nursing Week and gatherings, virtual town hall, park use

WEST CARLETON – Ottawa’s chief medical officer Dr. Vera Etches wants to recognize the incredible work nurses are doing in some of the challenging times of their careers during the start of National Nursing Week.

“Today (May 11) marks the start of National Nursing Week, a time when nurses are recognized for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the health and well-being of us all,” Etches released in a statement yesterday. “Ottawa Public Health (OPH) nurses play a vital role across the Ottawa community and in the life of every resident in the city. As respected members of our public health teams, nurses bring tremendous technical expertise to promote and protect our community’s health and to prevent disease and injury across populations. During this week, please join me in extending a thank you to the OPH nurses and all nurses across the healthcare sector for their tireless work now and every day.”

OPH continues to work with the Champlain Health Region Incident Command (CHRIC) to make COVID-19 testing available to the public, carry out testing to manage outbreaks and a surveillance exercise in long-term care homes and emergency child care centres. The Ontario-area laboratories appear to be managing the volume of testing created from encouraging people older than 60 who have COVID-19-like symptoms to present to an Assessment Centre or Care Clinic for assessment.  As the surveillance exercise wraps up, more of the population will be encouraged to present to rule out COVID-19 if they have symptoms of the infection.


“There have been many questions in the last few days regarding gathering with people outside our households if the group size is less than five,” Etches said. “While Ontario regulation allows gatherings of up to five people, OPH recommends keeping to activities with members of our households as much as possible, no matter what the size of the group. If we increase our interaction with others too much too soon, the level of infection has more chances to rise and we may risk overburdening our health care system – something we have avoided so far, thanks to the actions of people in Ottawa.”

People may not realize they are infected and still pass on the COVID-19 virus. There are still cases arising in the community where people infected were not in contact with a known case and did not have a history of travel to an affected area.

Provincial parks reopening across Ontario 

Today (May 12), the provincial government will begin reopening provincial parks and conservation reserves for day use with limited access. Before planning your trip, please visit to check the status of your local provincial park. Also, it is important to remember to continue to practice physical distancing if you decide to use these areas. Lastly, masks can provide another level of protection to people around you if you are not able to maintain a 2-metre distance from them.

COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall

The City of Ottawa is holding a virtual town hall on COVID-19 on Thursday, May 14 at 3pm. All residents are invited to join the meeting for an update on urgent community issues and to get answers to your questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. To maintain physical distancing and reduce the spread of the virus, this meeting will take place online. You can join a fews ways: via the City of Ottawa Youtube channel, tune into RogersTV Cable 22 or go online to

If you have questions for the panel, call in to 613-233-1979 (passcode 5490123#) during the discussion. The panel will include: 

  • Mayor Jim Watson will moderate a discussion
  • Keith Egli, Chair, Ottawa Board of Health
  • Steve Kanellakos, City Manager
  • Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health
  • Anthony Di Monte, General Manager, Emergency and Protective Services
  • Peter Sloly, Chief, Ottawa Police Service

The City of Ottawa is installing a new feature in the City’s busiest parks. Park Ambassadors are now on duty. Park Ambassadors are trained City staff who can provide guidance for Ottawa’s park users. They can offer valuable information, answer questions and clarify any confusion you might have about what’s permitted in City parks, trails and natural areas – all while maintaining a safe two-metre distance from others, of course. Ambassadors can be found working in pairs, wearing green t-shirts that residents already identify with the City’s recreation and culture programs. On chilly days, they’ll wear red jackets with markings that identify them as City staff. Park Ambassadors are not going to give out tickets. They are not by-law enforcement officers or police officers and have no authority to enforce regulations. What they can do, however, is educate and inform about how to use parks and how to get more information about recreation, social and mental health resources in Ottawa. We’ve identified the City’s busiest parks and our Park Ambassadors will circulate among them, between noon and dusk every day of the week. Each of the six teams will aim to visit four parks every day, for a combined 24 parks per day. Park Ambassadors will follow Ottawa Public Health guidelines for safe use of parks. While using green space in City parks, residents are still asked to:

  • Maintain a distance of two metres from others
  • Restrict activities to groups of five or fewer
  • Stay with people who are in your own household
  • Wear a mask whenever possible in public, especially when a two-metre separation is not possible
  • Stay off park amenities, such as play structures, ball diamonds, benches, skateboard ramps, basketball and tennis courts.

As further restrictions on parks and public gatherings are relaxed, our Park Ambassadors will still be in place to help inform and educate users about those changes.

City parks re-open to limited use

The City of Ottawa is advising that the limited use of some spaces in city parks and beaches is now permitted. This does not include the use of sports fields and courts. Effective immediately, individuals and families can enjoy fresh air and some outdoor activities in city parks. Everyone must also comply with current prohibitions under the Provincial Emergency Orders, including the prohibition on organized public events, gatherings of more than five people, and entry to and use of certain outdoor recreational amenities. Examples of permitted activities for individuals in groups of up to five people or members from the same household include:

  • Playing catch, kicking a soccer ball and throwing a football
  • Flying a kite
  • Sitting on a blanket, grass or lawn chair
  • Exercising and stretching on a yoga mat, but not in a class
  • Letting young children run and burn off some energy

If you are not with members of your own family, the provincial rders continue to restrict events and gatherings of more than five people and continue to prohibit the entry onto or use of all sports fields and courts (e.g.: football and soccer fields, ball diamonds, tennis courts and basketball courts), BMX and skate/board parks, all play structures and playgrounds, swings, benches, picnic tables, shelters, and off-leash dog areas. In addition, prohibited park use extends to all organized sporting activities and training, such as football, softball, ball hockey, soccer, ultimate frisbee and basketball – even if they are not being played on a court or sports field, as these activities do not allow for proper physical distancing. Also in accordance with the Provincial Orders, boat launches in parks remain closed and seasonal docks will not yet been installed. Launching any form of watercraft from any City park or beach remains prohibited for canoeists, kayakers and other watercraft enthusiasts.