March 24 COVID-19 update: Ottawa cases reach 27 confirmed, schools won’t start April 6, Smith Falls gets assessment centre

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Another three confirmed cases brings the total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ottawa to 27.

The province released its updated COVID-19 numbers this morning (March 24), showing 85 new cases across Ontario.

The local cases include a woman in her 30s, a man in his 40s and another man in his 50s. The first two contracted the illness through close contact with another person believed to have the virus. The third patient recently travelled to the United States. All three are in self-isolation.

The provincial government says three new cases have popped up in the Kingston area as well.

Ontario’s number is now up to 588 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – eight of those affected people have recovered while seven have died.

Details regarding 38 of the 85 new cases reported Tuesday have yet to be released.

School won’t be back in April 6

ONTARIO – Premier Doug Ford doesn’t expect to see students back in class on April 5.

Ford acknowledged Monday (March 23) he doesn’t think it is realistic to expect the province’s public schools to reopen on April 6.

Ford made the remarks on what would have been the first day back to class after March Break, acknowledging schools will need to remain closed longer as the province grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Earlier this month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce ordered the province’s publicly funded elementary and secondary schools shuttered for two additional weeks following the break.

“We’re taking this, again, day-by-day,” Ford said during a press conference Monday. “Do I believe — and does the minister believe — April 6 the kids are going back to school? The kids won’t be going back to school on April the 6.”

A spokeswoman for Lecce said the province continues to receive advice on the status of its schools from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“The minister has been clear, our government will take immediate action to ensure the safety of students and staff, and is preparing for all scenarios,” Alexandra Adamo said in a statement. 

Lecce issued an open letter Sunday night saying the government is looking at ways to keep course work going if the COVID-19 pandemic prevents classes from resuming on April 6 as planned.

He said it’s possible students will have to continue their classes online during the global outbreak.

The province has already created an online learning portal to help prevent students from falling behind and is looking at expanding online courses.

Lecce also said he’s making sure students on track to graduate won’t be thwarted by the pandemic.

He said he’s removed the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test as a requirement for graduation and is working with his counterparts in the ministries of colleges and universities and labour to ensure students will be able to apply for post-secondary education as usual.

Follow these links to access Ontario’s online learning portals:

Smith Falls COVID-19 Assessment Centre to open

SMITH FALLS – Lanark County’s Smith Falls is getting set to open its first COVID-19 Assessment Centre.

The Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) says patients will need an appointment to be tested for COVID-19 at what will essentially be a drive-up clinic at its Smiths Falls site, opening Tuesday, March 24. Anyone referred to the centre will be asked to drive to the facility’s main entrance on Elmsley Street North and remain in their vehicle while an in-vehicle assessment is completed. 

Patients can be referred by:

  • Telehealth Ontario
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
  • Primary care providers (family doctor, nurse practitioner, or clinic)

The hospital says testing will only be performed on patients who meet the current criteria for testing. The new assessment centre will be open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days per week.

Members of the public concerned about COVID-19 can complete a self-assessment here.

In addition to the centre opening, the PSFDH is implementing a few new rules as well:

  • Use only the Emergency Department Entrances at both the Perth and COVID-19 Pandemic the Smiths Falls sites. 
  • All visitors must complete the mandatory screening before entry to the hospital. It is located at the Emergency Department entrances.
  • The hospital(s) is closed for routine visiting. 
  • Only urgent and high priority surgeries, procedures and clinic visits will continue until further notice.
Mayors ask residents to avoid interprovincial travel

OTTAWA – The Ottawa and Gatineau mayors are asking their residents to only cross the provincial border for essential trips only.

Mayors Jim Watson and Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin made the statement this morning (March 24).

“The COVID-19 situation will not evolve the same way on both sides of the river, and everyone must be prepared to follow to the letter the recommendations of the public health authorities on limiting the virus’ propagation,” the statement read.

“I ask everyone living in the Outaouais and our friends on the Ontario side to reduce travel between the two provinces to the strictest minimum,” Gatineau Mayor Pedneaud-Jobin said. “These days, solidarity sometimes means staying home. This is not the time to go back and forth between your home and the cottage, to shop anywhere other than at local businesses, or to go to parks other than your neighbourhood park. Every time you go out, you make several stops, for instance to get gas, groceries, to mention but a few, which increases the risk of contagion.”

“Mayor Pedneaud-Jobin and I are appealing to the solidarity of the region’s residents: limit your non-essential travels, including between Ottawa and Gatineau,” Ottawa Mayor Watson. “Please stay home, but if you must cross the river to help out family or friends, be sure to take every necessary precaution.”

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