Dec. 20 COVID-19 update: Biggest one-day jump in eight months, Winterlude a go so far, Nurses need help

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Yesterday’s (Dec. 19) COVID-count was the single biggest one-day number in more than eight months.

According to Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) numbers for Sunday, Dec. 19, the city confirmed 333 new cases of the virus. The new cases bring Ottawa’s total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic started to 34,296.

Of those new cases, one involves the Omicron variant, while five involve the Delta variant.

Ottawa represents about eight per cent of all cases reported on Sunday throughout the province.

Two more people have entered hospitals, bringing the current total of people with the virus in hospital to five. Intensive care units across the city remain empty of COVID patients.

There are no new deaths reported, keeping the local death toll at 620.

Meanwhile, three new outbreaks have been declared at childcare centres and schools in the city, bringing the total number of ongoing outbreaks to 33 on Sunday.

The three new outbreaks have been declared at:

École élementaire Alain-Fortin with four student cases

École élementaire d’enseignement personnalisé Édouard-Bond with two student cases

St. Patrick Elementary School with six student and two staff cases

No new outbreaks have been declared at healthcare institutions or within the community, keeping the number at four and 11 respectively.

The rate per 100,000 residents has gone up to 132.6 from Friday’s 112.

The positivity rate in the community remains at 6.3 per cent.

Public Health Ontario (PHO) has the Eastern Ontario Health Unit reporting 61 new cases on Sunday, up from Saturday’s 37.

The Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit and the Renfrew County and District Health Unit both report a dip in cases — 41 from 44; and four from 10, respectively.

Ontario reported its own sharp increase of new cases on Sunday with 4,177 new cases.

The last time the province reported daily case numbers like Sunday’s was on April 23 with 4,505.

Of Sunday’s new cases across the province, 32 involved the Omicron variant, compared to Saturday’s (Dec. 18) 28 — which brings the total number of Omicron cases in the province to 250 since Oct. 31.

As well, 175 cases on Sunday involve the Delta variant (down from Saturday’s 405).

Saturday there were 3,301 total cases.

There are also two new deaths added to the provincial tally, bringing the total number of deaths to date to 10,113.

In the last 24 hours, 1,210 cases have resolved.

In fact, 99 people with the virus have been able to leave hospitals across the province, bringing the total number of patients down to 283.

Five more people have entered ICUs, bringing the total to 159, while four more have been put on ventilators, bringing the total to 103.

Of those in hospital but not in ICUs, 121 are unvaccinated; 88 are fully vaccinated and nine are partially vaccinated.

Of the patients in the ICU, 75 are unvaccinated; 33 are fully vaccinated and five are partially vaccinated.

Winterlude organizers planning 2022 event

OTTAWA – Winterlude organizers are detailing a few features of Ottawa’s upcoming winter festival, and say they will be looking to Ottawa Public Health (OPH) for guidance as the local COVID-19 situation evolves.

For now, organizers say the National Ice-Carving Championship is returning to Ottawa.

Winterlude is set to take place from Feb. 4 to 21, 2022, with ice carving happening Feb. 5 and 6.

Ottawa’s winter festival hosted the first-ever National Ice-Carving Championship last year, where the winners of the competition were chosen by Canadians across the country. The competition is expected to return this season, where pairs of carvers representing the 10 provinces will be given 20 hours to take 15 blocks of ice and create their works of art.

Online voting will run from Feb. 11 to 20, 2022. The winning team will be announced Feb. 21.

Snowflake Kingdom, co-produced with the Ville de Gatineau, will be found in northern part of Jacques-Cartier Park for snow tubing and family activities.

On Sparks Street, there is expected to be interactive light structures and ice sculptures. 

Many activities will be taking place along the Rideau Canal Skateway as well, such as the Winterlude Triathlon and the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival.

Winterlude organizers say programming partners, including the Canadian Museum of History, the National Arts Centre, and Capital Pride, will be offering even more activities.

The winter festival also plans on shining a light on Indigenous Culture. Winterlude is presenting ‘Circle of Life,’ a thematic light installation featuring works by Indigenous artists. The exhibition, designed by Lucion, will be installed at Confederation Park in Ottawa. The schedule of events, along with all the information needed to participate, will be available on the Winterlude website.

On the Winterlude website, it says, “to ensure everyone’s safety during the pandemic, we are working on preventive measures against COVID-19 that will be put into place in accordance with public health instructions.”

Full programming details are expected to be released in January, 2022.

Nurses’ association says shortage is ‘critical’

ONTARIO – The implementation of Bill 124; people refusing vaccination; the anticipated problems that will come with Omicron; and nurses getting sick with the coronavirus themselves, has created a perfect storm for nurses to leave the profession in Ontario their representation says.

That’s what Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) said in a recent radio interview last Friday, (Dec. 17), as she discussed the “critical” nursing shortage in Ontario hospital rooms as the Omicron COVID-19 variant drives cases up.

“It is very serious when it comes to Omicron,” she said. “The virus is exponentially multiplying every two to two-and-a-half days. Come Christmas Day, come New Years, we’ll see a tremendous increase in cases up to 10,000 or close to a day. That means many of them will get to the ICUs, to the hospitals, and that’s where the crunch happens.”

The shortage, Grinspun said, mostly has to do with registered nurses (RN). Ontario has the lowest RN population in Canada. 

“They’re exhausted,” she said. “They don’t feel recognized or valued by the government.”

Grinspun says nurses have been feeling like this since before the pandemic, when the government introduced Bill 124 – a bill that caps public sector wage increases to one per cent a year.

The RNAO described the bill as demoralizing and undermining to the nursing profession during a Toronto rally in November.

Dubbed by the provincial government as the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, it was introduced in the Ontario legislature in June 2019 and in November received royal assent.

Bill 124 applies to most of the Ontario government as well as provincially funded, public corporations and agencies, except for municipalities and municipal boards, Indigenous communities, police services and for-profit entities (unless exempt by regulation). It’s estimated more than one million people are covered by the law and the three-year periods vary in timing based on different sectors and when collective agreements end.

When it comes specifically to the health care sector, the government touted its 16-week pandemic pay bump in mid-2020 as well as spending nearly $400 million on recruiting new professionals and funding training for registered nurses and registered practical nurses to upgrade their skills.

Groups representing affected workers are in the process of challenging the law through the courts, but as of mid-November a decision wasn’t made.

“The premier has the emergency powers to say that bill is gone,” Grinspun said. “He is being stubborn but the price will not be paid by nurses, it will be paid by Ontarians and that’s why nurses are devastated. Nurses are furious about that bill, even before Omicron. And now they need to do more and more and more and people continue not to be vaccinated and it’s just become too much.”

It’s all become too toxic for nurses, Grinspun said, and nurses are just too exhausted.

“He’s asking more from the profession and the profession is saying no more,” she said.

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