Special Statement from Dr. Etches – April 13, 2022

As we approach another holiday during the pandemic, many people are making plans to gather with loved ones or attend religious ceremonies. Spending time with family and friends is important for mental health, so if you are planning to gather with others, I encourage everyone to continue to assess your individual risk and the risk of those with whom you plan to gather.

We continue to see a high level of COVID-19 in the community based on our usual indicators, including wastewater data, per cent positivity, outbreaks and hospitalizations.

Given the current high level of COVID-19 in the community, Ottawa Public Health is strongly recommending individuals to wear masks in indoor settings, particularly in situations where physical distancing may be difficult or impossible.  Consider keeping your gathering smaller and limiting the number of contacts outside your household. The weather forecast is calling for milder temperatures this weekend, so think about taking your gatherings outdoors. Keep windows or screen doors open to increase air flow. Consider the vaccination status of the individuals in attendance.

We encourage everyone to get all vaccination doses they are eligible for – for those 60 and older, that means a fourth dose. Booster doses significantly reduce the risk of severe illness and lower the risk of transmission. More information on eligibility can be found on our website. People may choose to book their 4th dose after 3 months for additional protection during this resurgence by calling the provincial vaccine booking line, rather than at the automatic 5-month interval using the online booking system.

And as always, if you are feeling sick, stay home. Even if you test negative on a rapid test, stay home and do not attend any gatherings if you’re feeling sick. We are aware of other viruses circulating in the community, including gastrointestinal illness. This may present differently than COVID-19, but it is still important to stay home when sick and to use layers of protection to reduce transmission and keep others well. If you have symptoms or test positive be sure to follow isolation instructions to reduce the risk of transmission, more information is available at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Self-Isolate.

The Province of Ontario has recently expanded eligibility for testing and COVID-19 antiviral treatments for people with symptoms who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19. These treatments must be taken within the first five days of symptom onset. More information on treatment can be found at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDAntiviral.

We are still in the middle of a significant wave and taking these precautions will help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

I know that hearing the same message for two years is not easy. Sharing this message is not easy. We have been through – and continue to navigate – a significant event that will leave an imprint on our lives forever.  We don’t yet know long COVID will be present in the community, or to what extent, but we’ve been at this for 25 long months and we will see this through with you. Such measures will not always be needed, but are useful to go back to in times of high levels of COVID-19 in the community.

So for now, continue to take care of each other. Be kind. Be well. And be safe.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

Dr. Vera Etches

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