What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 24

Recent developments:

What’s the latest?

As COVID-19 persists into its second year, Ontario cities will be looking to today’s provincial budget to shore up their financial shortfalls and prepare for a post-pandemic economic recovery.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy is scheduled to deliver the budget at 4 p.m. Quebec’s budget day is tomorrow.

Many Canadians are wondering what they can safely do after getting vaccinated, but the federal recommendations still haven’t been updated weeks after the recommendation to wait up to four months between doses.

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How many cases are there?

As of Tuesday, 16,252 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are currently 755 known active cases, 15,040 resolved cases and 457 deaths.

Public health officials have reported more than 29,200 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including nearly 27,000 resolved cases.

Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, 134 people have died of COVID-19 and 170 people have died in western Quebec.

Akwesasne has had 260 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and seven deaths. It’s had more than 530 cases when its southern section is added in.

Kitigan Zibi has had 22 confirmed cases and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had seven, with one death.

CBC Ottawa is profiling those who’ve died of COVID-19. If you’d like to share your loved one’s story, please get in touch.

What can I do?

The province’s science advisors are among the experts saying Ontario is in its third wave of the pandemic, while OPH said last week the city’s spread of COVID-19 is getting out of control.

Eastern Ontario now ranges from red to green under the province’s colour-coded pandemic scale. Restaurants, gyms, personal care services and non-essential businesses are open across the region.

Ottawa and Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties are in the red zone, which means all gatherings are capped at five people inside and 25 outside. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit may follow this week.

Restaurants in red zones have a maximum capacity of 50 per cent to a maximum of 50 people. Theatres are closed in red zones, and team sports games and scrimmages are banned.

Going red also means only leaving home for essential reasons and not having indoor visitors.

Local health units can also set their own rules, like what Kingston’s is doing around gatherings and Lanark County’s is doing for sports.

A runner makes their way past a wilting snowman named Janus in a mask and spring-themed gear named Janus along Ottawa’s Queen Elizabeth Driveway March 23, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

In western Quebec, gyms and restaurants can open under its orange zone rules, as can non-essential businesses.

Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people are allowed. The region’s curfew hours are 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m.

Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Que., and some of the surrounding area remains in red. The Outaouais may join it if its trends don’t turn around, officials say.

Rules around sports loosen on Friday.

People across the Ottawa-Gatineau area are asked to only have close contact with people they live with, be masked and distanced for all other in-person contact and only travel for essential reasons, especially between differently coloured zones.

Distancing and isolating

The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.

People can be contagious without symptoms, even after getting a vaccine. New coronavirus variants can be more contagious and are spreading quickly in some places.

This means it is important to take precautions now and in the future like staying home while sick — and getting help with costs if needed — keeping hands and surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don’t live with, even with a mask on.

A group of people in masks cross an Ottawa street in March 2021. (Brian Morris/CBC)

Masks, preferably ones that fit snugly and have three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec.

OPH says residents should wear masks outside their homes whenever possible.

People have to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada by land without a fine and have to pay for their stay in a quarantine hotel if entering by air.

Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get help with errands.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who’ve been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Quebec and Ontario.


Four COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in Canada.Canada’s task force said first doses offer such strong protection that people can wait up to four months to get a second, meaning jurisdictions can spread first doses widely.

About 220,000 doses have been given out in the wider region since mid-December, including about 92,000 doses in Ottawa and about 28,000 in western Quebec.

Ontario’s first doses generally went to care home residents and health-care workers.

The provincewide campaign has expanded further into Phase 1 to include more priority groups such as all people over age 75. People can book appointments online or over the phone.

Phase 2 should include people with underlying health conditions in April, followed by people who can’t work from home or are 60 and older in June.

Phase 3, slated to begin in July, will involve vaccinating anyone older than 16.

Local health units have some flexibility in the larger framework, so check their websites for details. What each local health unit is managing themselves can differ from what they’re leaning on the provincial system to do.

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Some Ottawans in certain neighbourhoods can check their eligibility online and call the city at 613-691-5505 for an appointment. So can Indigenous people over age 40.

People who are above or turning age 60 in the Kingston area can contact one of nearly 50 pharmacies for a vaccine appointment as part of a pilot project.

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Quebec also started by vaccinating people in care homes and health-care workers.

The vaccination plan now covers people age 65 and older at six western Quebec clinics. That will be followed by essential workers and finally the general public.

Officials expect everyone over the age of 65 to be vaccinated by mid-April and everyone who wants a shot to be able to get one by by Fête nationale on June 24.

People who qualify can make an appointment online or over the phone. Pharmacists there will also be giving shots.

Symptoms and testing

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children tend to have an upset stomach and/or a rash.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help.

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In eastern Ontario:

Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment.

Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you’ve been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria.

People without symptoms but who are part of the province’s targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies.

Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one.

Check with your area’s health unit for clinic locations and hours. Some are offering pop-up or mobile clinics.

In western Quebec:

Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts.

Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.

There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki and Petite-Nation.

Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis:

Akwesasne has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only and a curfew of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who’s been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-1175. Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a test can call 613-967-3603 and in Kitigan Zibi, 819-449-5593.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing and vaccines, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.

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