May 19 COVID-19 update: New numbers good and bad, Rapid testing kits to small businesses, Watson rushed by provincial announcement

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reports one new COVID-19-related death and 107 new cases of the virus as a handful of monitored indicators turn in the wrong direction.

The Ottawa resident who most recently died due to COVID-19 was in his or her 50s. Ottawa’s pandemic death toll of 539 breaks down by age like this: one person in their 20s; one in their 30s; five in their 40s; 19 in their 50s; 60 in their 60s; 99 in their 70s; 191 in their 80s; and 163 in their 90s.

Local COVID-19 hospitalizations are up from 55 on Monday to 65 today (May 19). The number of patients fighting the virus in intensive care is now up to 20.

Ottawa’s weekly COVID-19 incidence rate was falling consistently until rising very slightly to 63.2 per 100,000 residents this week.

The local COVID-19 positivity rate is also up from 5.3 per cent to 6 per cent.

OPH says there are 15 healthcare institutions and five childcare centres still dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. The health unit continues to monitor one community outbreak stemming from a workplace.

The City of Ottawa has administered 90 per cent of the 483,190 COVID-19 vaccine doses it’s received to date. Nearly 452,000 residents have had at least one vaccine dose, which equals 53 per cent of all local adults over the age of 18.

OPH reports it is tracing 1,005 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

There have been 26,268 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the city (24,724 resolved) since March of 2020.

Ontario is reporting 1,588 new cases of COVID-19, Wednesday, including 14 in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s region, four in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark district and five in Renfrew County and district.

Ottawa board to distribute free rapid testing kits to small businesses

OTTAWA – Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT) plans to start distributing free COVID-19 rapid testing kits to businesses with under 150 employees, starting next week.

OBoT says it will distribute the kits at Invest Ottawa’s headquarters at Bayview Yards on Wednesday, May 26, starting at 10 a.m. 

It’s part of a province-wide plan to provide an estimated 760,000 kits to small and medium sized businesses before Labour Day weekend. Larger businesses are asked to get their kits directly from the Government of Ontario.

“These kits are an integral part of the rebound and recovery of Ottawa businesses as they will provide twice weekly screening of employees,” OBoT President and CEO Sueling Ching released in a statement. “This will help protect employees, co-workers and their customers by significantly reducing transmission. A positive test will require an immediate departure from work by the employee and a follow-up test by Ottawa Public Health. This program is part of OBoT’s work, since COVID-19 hit our region, to support innovative and creative ways to keep businesses open safely.”

This local distribution is partially sponsored by Commissionaires Ottawa, one of the largest private sector employers in the National Capital Region with more than 3,800 employees locally, many of them veterans. 

“Since COVID-19 became a global crisis, commissionaires have been deployed to shelters, respite centres, long term care homes, pop-up vaccination clinics, vaccine storage centres, and medical supply warehouses,” Commissionaires Ottawa CEO and distinguished veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces Paul Guindon said. “Supporting the Ottawa Board of Trade’s efforts to get rapid testing out to the business community as quickly as possible is yet another way we want to help protect people.”

Non-urgent surgeries return

ONTARIO – Ontario hospitals have permission to resume non-urgent surgeries and procedures as the number of COVID-19 infections declines.

The province’s chief medical officer of health wrote in a memo he is rescinding an emergency order issued April 20 that told hospitals to temporarily cease those surgeries amid an onslaught of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. David Williams says that daily COVID-19 rates, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions appear to be trending downward. He says some of the province’s hospitals now have capacity to resume cancelled procedures and notes that it’s important to limit the long-term negative impact of waiting for non-urgent care.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott says the resumption of non-urgent procedures won’t be uniform across the province since it’s dependent on a hospital’s capacity. 

Last week, Ontario’s fiscal watchdog said it will take the province approximately three and a half years to clear the surgical backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Financial Accountability Office projected the backlog of cancelled surgeries will reach 419,200 procedures by the end of September.

Mayor Watson feels rushed by provincial announcement

OTTAWA – Following the expansion of the provincial vaccine rollout to adults over the age of 18, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is calling on the Ontario government to give the city a larger share of COVID-19 vaccines.

Watson says the move to expand vaccine eligibility is creating problems for the local rollout.

It was expected the province would open vaccine eligibility to adults over 30 this week, but the provincial government said it expanded the rollout ahead of schedule after shipments of COVID-19 vaccines arrived earlier than expected.

“We’ve been counting on intervals of five or 10 years,” Watson told a local radio station. “We thought we’d be going down to 30-plus, then the province decided to bring it all the way down to 18.”

The mayor says, shortly after bookings opened up at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 19, all available bookings in Ottawa were filled. He blames the province for going ahead with the expansion without ensuring areas had proper vaccines supplies.

“It’s really frustrating and unfair for people who are 18-plus to go in, excited about getting their doses, and then they’re all gobbled up literally within the first hour,” Watson said. “Councillor [Keith] Egli and I will be talking with provincial officials and telling them that we really do need to see a stepped up per capita share of doses for Ottawa.”

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