Council hears latest on COVID-19 community health, economic recovery

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

CITY HALL – Ottawa’s COVID-19 leaders provided council with an update on the fight against the coronavirus and its impact on the health and the economy of the Ottawa community.

Council received an update on the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy and the city’s economic recovery efforts.

“We’re out of the red, but we’re at a very small margin of safety,” the city’s chief medical officer Dr. Vera Etches told council Wednesday (May 27). “We need to learn to live with this virus.”

As of yesterday (May 28) there were 1,930 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 240 deaths reported in Ottawa. As of yesterday, there were eight new cases and two new deaths. There are 37 residents currently hospitalized and 18 ongoing outbreaks in institutions. Eighty per cent of cases have been resolved.

Due to a lack of community testing, the overall case count could be anywhere from five to 30 times higher than what has been recorded. Etches is urging anyone with even the slightest of symptoms to get tested. Residents who are asymptomatic, but would like to be tested are also welcome at the assessment centre at Brewer Arena or at one of the COVID-19 care clinics.

Etches says a plan for the rural areas of the city is still being worked on.

“The approach to the rural area is different,” Etches said. “I first recommend you consult your doctor.”

Etches say Ottaw Public Health is looking at expanding its mobile options.

“I expect you will see more options coming soon,” she said.

Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development general manager Steve Willis updated council on the economy related to COVID-19.

“We all know business owners who are hurting and people out of week,” Willis said.

Willis broke down the economic impacts based on sector. The entertainment, accommodations, food services and retail sectors have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Public administration, health care, social services, education and transportation have felt moderate impacts and professional, scientific, technical services and constructions have felt a low impact.

Willis estimates there have been 25,522 job losses in the entertainment, accommodation and food services sectors with $42.06 million in wage losses as of April 12. He estimates 27,025 jobs and $62.05 million in wages have been lost in retail.

“We believe our focus should be on those hurting the most,” Willis said.

The city is following a phased approach to restart, reset and contribute to the resiliency of the local economy. To support local businesses, staff are working to update fees for patios and tourist kiosks, grant temporary access for vendors and retail businesses to the city’s right of way, launch the second phase of the Buy Local promotional campaign and review applications for the Innovation Pilot Program.

Council approved changes to the Right of Way Patio Bylaw to make it easier for restaurants and cafés to open patios in the city’s right of way this year. The city will waive the daily rate for patios and tourist kiosks, along with the annual permit fee for café seating permits. The city will also allow an unlimited number of café seating permits where there is space available.

Staff will update the Transportation committee on Wednesday, June 3 about opportunities for patios and retail businesses on private property to expand into neighbouring parking lots, private property and the city’s right of way.

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online the city has to be very careful as it relaxes regulations related to COVID-19.

“That’s a fact now, when things are opened up, cases go up,” he said. “We saw that on Mother’s Day.”

He also understands the challenges small businesses, especially in the food services sector, are going to continue to face, even as rules are relaxed.

“People are going to be scared,” he said. “I don’t think we are going to see a line-up of people going to restaurants when the orders are lifted.”


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