Aug. 30 COVID-19 update: Hospitalizations trending up, Province to make decision on vaccine passports this week

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reports there are 10 (or more) people in local hospitals with COVID-19 for the first time in more than two months.

The last time there were 10 people in Ottawa hospitals with the virus was on June 20. As of today, (Aug. 30), one of the 10 patients is in intensive care. OPH was reporting just four people in hospital on Friday (Aug. 27).

The provincial government says 85 per cent of hospitalizations in Ontario are in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents.

OPH is confirming 45 new cases of COVID-19 in the city today. The public health agency reported 192 new cases over the last seven days. The health unit is currently tracking 229 active cases in Ottawa.

There have been 303 Delta variant cases in the city over the course of the pandemic, with 183 of those popping up over the last 30 days.

Ottawa residents being tested for COVID-19 are seeing positive results 1.9 per cent of the time.

There are no ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa.

OPH continues to report Ottawa’s rate of infection per 100,000 residents for those vaccinated against the virus is 2.4, whereas the rate for those unvaccinated is 51.9. The rate per 100,000 residents for those who are still waiting for their second shot is 26. Overall, the health unit says the risk of COVID-19 infection among the unvaccinated vaccine-eligible population is 22 times higher than it is for the fully vaccinated population.

Ontario is reporting 694 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths from the virus on Monday. Health Minister Christine Elliott says 527 of the infected people are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status. 

OPH says 79 per cent of Ottawa residents over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 86 per cent have had at least one shot.

There have been 28,339 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa (27,517 resolved) since March of 2020.

Ottawa’s pandemic death toll remains at 593 as there hasn’t been a COVID-19-related death reported in the city since July 8, 2021.

Province to announce vaccine certificate system this week

ONTARIO – The provincial government plans to announce a COVID-19 vaccine certificate system early this week, taking a significant reversal from Premier Doug Ford on the issue.

Three senior government sources with knowledge of the situation said Friday (Aug. 27) a plan for a certificate system is in the works, with the final details still being worked out. 

The sources said the planned system, which would limit access to certain non-essential services based on vaccination status, will go to cabinet for discussion before an announcement is made.

The introduction of a vaccine certificate system would be a major reversal for Ford, who has publicly rejected the idea and said it would create a “split society.” 

Calls have been growing, however, for Ontario to bring in such a system, with businesses, municipalities, health-care workers and opposition politicians saying it is needed as the province experiences a fourth wave driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Earlier this week, top officials at Ontario public health units said they were considering options for regional vaccine certificates in the absence of a provincial system. 

Ontario’s chamber of commerce also released guidance for private businesses seeking to develop their own proof-of-vaccination protocols, saying it did so “in the absence of government guidance.”

The province’s COVID-19 science advisers said a vaccine certificate system would allow high-risk settings to re-open sooner with greater capacity. The advisers also said such a system would help reintroduce stronger public health measures if needed in the future. 

Similar systems have already been announced in British Columbia and Quebec, with the measures to take effect in the coming weeks. Manitoba is also expected to soon announce details of a vaccine passport. 

Word of Ontario’s plans came after federal Liberal leader Prime Minister Justin Trudeau scolded Ford earlier for not following other provinces in mandating vaccination for non-essential settings. 

Trudeau promised $1 billion from a re-elected Liberal government for provinces choosing to implement vaccine passport systems and called directly on Ford to take up the offer.

“I certainly hope that here in Ontario, Premier Ford steps up, too,” Trudeau said. “It’s time for him to listen to public health officials.”

Opposition politicians in Ontario called Friday evening for Ford to move quickly with a provincial vaccine certificate.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Board of Health chair Keith Egli are strongly encouraging the provincial government to move forward with the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine certificate program.

“Locking down the economy and closing schools can no longer be our primary way of slowing the spread of this virus when we have the vaccine so readily available to all those who are eligible,” reads a letter to Premier Doug Ford from Watson and Egli, sent earlier today (Aug. 30).

The mayor and chair acknowledge the province is considering a vaccine certificate and are urging it to “approve this program as quickly as possible.”

The letter outlines other jurisdictions in Canada that have implemented a similar program have seen major increases in vaccine uptake. Ottawa is nearing 80 per cent fully vaccinated already, and the mayor believes a vaccine certificate could get the city to its goal of 90 per cent.

Watson and Egli say they are also concerned about the consequences of not implementing a certificate program when there is one in place right across the Ottawa River.

“There is now an increased likelihood that Quebec residents who are not vaccinated will choose to come to Ottawa to do their shopping, eat in restaurants and take part in other activities where it is easier to transmit and contract COVID-19, leading to more local transmission in Ottawa,” the letter reads.

The decision to leave it up to businesses to verify provincial documentation would also be wrong, says Watson and Egli.

The letter gives the example of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, who will face a huge logistical challenge trying to verify the double-vaccination status of 15,000 fans it hopes to host at TD Place after Sept. 12.

The mayor and board of health chair believe we’ve reached a tipping point in the fight against COVID-19 and a COVID-19 vaccination certificate could be one of the best tools to curb a fourth wave and any further economic disruptions.

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