Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches issued a special statement Wednesday encouraging people to wear masks indoors, to limit the size of holiday gatherings and to gather outdoors, if possible, this weekend.
“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.”
Etches acknowledged that this weekend, which falls on Easter, at the beginning of Passover and during Ramadan, represents yet another holiday during the pandemic in which people are being told to be cautious and limit gatherings.
“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 how 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.”
The upcoming holiday weekend comes amidst an ongoing wave of COVID cases, the first significant one during the pandemic in which most restrictions have been lifted.
The Ottawa Public Health message for people to “assess your individual risk and the risk of those with whom you plan to gather” has drawn criticism because there is little sign it is changing behaviour enough to slow the steep rate of transmission in the community, as evidenced by wastewater levels of COVID-19. Although wastewater levels are at record highs in Ottawa and much of the province, hospitalizations are generally not as high as with previous waves.
Etches also encouraged people to use rapid tests, to stay home when sick, to get as many vaccines as they are eligible for and to access antiviral treatments if they qualify and are infected. More information is available at OttawaPublicHealth.ca.