Monday, March 16 COVID-19 update: Ottawa tele-town hall meet 1 p.m., WCDR speaks, elective surgery cancelled, El-Chantiry update and more closures

WEST CARLETON – It’s been less than a week (March 11) since the first reported case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ottawa and since that time there are now 13 confirmed cases and an estimated hundreds more, as the city’s chief medical officer continues to recommend self-isolation in an effort to control the spread and not put a strain on available healthcare resources.

“Things are changing so fast,” Coun. Eli El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online just before noon today (March 16). “I always make reference to the Ottawa Public Health (OPH) website because things are changing faster than I can type.”

El-Chantiry said he was unable to attend yesterday’s special council meeting on COVID-19 but did participate through conference call. With the only COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Old Ottawa South, El-Chantiry wanted to know if something can be done for rural residents.

“I asked (general manager of Emergency Services) Anthony Di Monte if there is the possibility of a mobile testing unit to visit the rural areas,” he said. “I don’t want people from Kinburn to have to drive all the way to Brewer Arena. They might not be sick now, but driving to a place with thousands of people might not be a good idea.”

El-Chantiry says the same rules would apply for a mobile testing unit. Only those showing potential symptoms would be tested (for a self-assesment on potential symptoms, click here).

“Maybe they could spend an hour in each community,” he said.

El-Chantiry is also concerned about the spring freshet and possible flooding being complicated by the spread of COVID-19.

“Do we have a Plan B?” he said. “If there is a flood, do we have people available to help?”

El-Chantiry wants to know if the armed forces might be available, as he suspects it might be difficult to get the number of volunteers that helped out last year.

“It will be hard to get volunteers under these circumstances,” he said. “Do they want their kids running around with hundreds of other people in the rain?”

El-Chantiry says if there is flooding, the city is as prepared as it can be. Currently there are roughly 250,000 sandbags ready for deployment, plenty of new empty sandbags and large piles of cleaned sand at the Woodlawn city facility.

Mayor Jim Watson is providing an update on the city’s response to COVID-19 today (March 16) at 1 p.m. by way of a telephone call-in conference call.

“Dear members of the business and tourism communities, I would like to invite you to join me, Coun. El-Chantiry and senior city staff for a teleconference update, where we will share the city’s plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Watson released in a statement yesterday (March 15). “We also wish to explore how the city can support tourism and small businesses through these challenging times. I hope you will be able to join us for this important discussion.”

Those interested in taking part can do so by calling 1-866-305-1460 shortly before 1 p.m. The code to gain access to the conference call is 0402250.

Yesterday (March 15), OPH chief medical officer Dr. Vera Etches updated the city on the coronavirus and preventative measures. West Carleton Online published some of that information in earlier stories. Etches recommends increasing efforts of “social distancing” and staying home as much as possible.

“I know there will be many questions and significant hardship associated with strong implementation of these measures,” Etches said. “People will wonder if they are necessary. Unless we act now to limit COVID-19 transmission in our community, we will not be able to keep the numbers who require hospital treatment all at once to a manageable number. We each need to do our part to ensure that our healthcare providers do not have to choose between who lives and who dies due to a lack of capacity to care for the most vulnerable people. Social distancing measures can make a huge difference to limit the rapid spread of illness. OPH will be increasing the detail in our messaging on our website related to social distancing to provide further guidance to the public. Please continue to share this information. We continue to work in concert with our provincial and federal public health colleagues and not all websites can keep up with rapidly changing information. We will share what is happening in our community on our website.”

One of the 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 includes a City of Ottawa employee.

“The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to evolve rapidly,” Coun. El-Chantiry released in a statement yesterday (March 15). “This number shows us that there are likely more travel related cases that have gone on to cause local transmission of the virus in Ottawa. This predicted development is a change in the situation we’ve been dealing with up until this point. This is an unprecedented situation that is changing quickly. As such, the senior leadership team met this afternoon to discuss additional precautionary steps we are implementing to protect our people and our community.”

While the city is encouraging people to work from home, that is just not possible in every case and that includes city staff.

“We need employees to continue to work to deliver the services our residents rely on,” city manager Steve Kanellakos released in a statement yesterday (March 15). “Wherever possible, staff are being asked to work from home. Departments are exploring alternate channels for frontline employees to provide service to residents that limits face-to-face interaction (online, phone or email). Residents and clients are being redirected to these alternate channels where possible. Additional screening measures are currently being reviewed for all public facing facilities. Emergency Operations staff are actively sourcing additional supplies of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to be distributed to public-facing staff. Signage has been posted at city facilities that remain open to discourage anyone who is showing signs of illness from entering the facility.”

All city-run public facilities in West Carleton have been closed except for the West Carleton Community Complex that will continue to accept clients on Wednesday.

WCDR says COVID-19 putting stress on tornado, flood recovery

WEST CARLETON – West Carleton Disaster Relief (WCDR) has also released a statement in regards to COVID-19. WCDR is a volunteer organization originally established to help West Carleton residents affected by the tornado in 2018 and extreme flooding in 2019.

“While there are many around the world who are suffering amidst this outbreak, we want to take a moment to acknowledge that here, in West Carleton this is now the fourth major incident affecting our communities in the past three years,” the WCDR released in a statement March 14. “From all indications, this will likely affect quite a number of our community members over the course of the pandemic.”

WCDR says COVID-19 will not only create a new challenge for the organization, but hamper efforts of their work on those still recovering from the tornado and flooding.

“This outbreak is compounding the stress and anxiety that you and your neighbours are already feeling,” the WCDR said. “Many of our residents continue to struggle with their repairs or rebuilds from the floods or the tornado and others are worried about the upcoming threat of high water. Please remember that we are all in this together. We are now all experts at stepping up and helping each other, we will need these amazing community support skills in the coming weeks. Volunteers from WCDR will continue to work on helping families who are struggling with past disasters while keeping our eye on the water levels. Please note that we are looking into alternative ways to host our April 4th meeting and we will keep you all informed as we move forward with our plans.”

WCDR says they will keep their website up-to-date on COVID-19 information.

Elective surgeries put on hold

ONTARIO – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) says all elective surgery in the province will be put on hold.

In an email sent to Ontario medical staff yesterday (March 15), the OMA said the “difficult decision” was made “to protect all health-care providers, patients and the public, and most importantly, to manage what we expect may be tremendous demand on the system from spread of the virus.”

The email says the OMA is working with the Ministry of Health to develop a “virtual walk-in clinic” for patients referred from Telehealth Ontario.

WC closures, cancellations and schedule changes, with the newest announcement listed first (this list may not be complete, if you are unsure, please contact the event host)
  • The Huntley Curling Club has closed and cancelled all further curling and events for the season.
    “We have a vulnerable demographic as well as at-risk individuals within our club members, and many have already expressed their concern about continuing curling,” HCC President Blake Sinclair released in a statement. “Some members are simply not showing up to league play already. We cannot guarantee the safety of members if the club remains open for curling, and it does not make sense to continue with club operations if it puts members at risk of contracting the virus.”
  • The Carp Fair March 21 four-handed euchre tournament
  • The Fitzroy Harbour Community Association has postponed its March 26 annual general meeting
  • Mount Pakenham ski hill has closed for the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • All West Carleton area community centre and city-owned public buildings like the two indoor ice pads are closed. All local sports teams including the Warriors, Wolverines and Talons have halted their seasons and practices. (The Client Service Centre at the West Carleton Community Complex will open on Wednesdays. Ottawa City Hall and city-run daycares, with increased COVid-19 screening for their children remain open).
  • The West Carleton Community Complex will be open to the public on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • The Carp Commons Retirement Village is now screening visitors and preventing entry to anyone who has travelled outside of Canada in the last two weeks. Residents are allowed one visitor at a time who most remain in the host’s suite and wear a mask.
  • The West Carleton Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 616, has cancelled all events including TGIF dinners, darts and meetings.
  • The Friends of the Carp Hills have postponed their annual general meeting that was scheduled for March 25.
  • The West Carleton Arts Society has cancelled its annual art conference and workshop scheduled for April 1 to 4.
  • The Carp Farmers’ Market board of directors has not yet made a decision on its Easter Market scheduled for April 11 but will continue deliberations.
  • The Diefenbunker Museum has closed until further notice.
  • The Huntley Township Historical Society has cancelled its March 17 St. Patrick’s Day Event.
  • The Corkery Fire Station, Ottawa Fire Station 84 is postponing its April 18 Open House.
  • The Ottawa Fire Service Recruit Information Meeting scheduled for March 19 at the Carp Fire Hall has been postponed.
  • Savvy Seconds will remain open but by appointment only.
  • The West Carleton Food Access Centre will be closed from March 28 to April 5 in order to work on resupplying its low reserves. The phone line continues to be monitored.
  • The Teck Talk for Everyone March 19 workshop has been postponed until later in the summer.
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