Sept. 2 COVID-19 update: New community outbreak, Workplace policies, Council to stay home this fall, OCDSB reconsiders sports policy

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting one new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a private social event.

As of today (Sept. 2), there are two ongoing outbreaks of the coronavirus in the city. The first stems from The Little School Day Care Centre in Orléans after two children tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

OPH is confirming 39 new cases of COVID-19 today. There have been 205 new cases in the last seven days.

The health unit is tracking 237 active cases of COVID-19 in the city, but says the number of hospitalizations due to the virus is down from 10 to eight, while one person remains in intensive care.

OPH is adding one case of Delta variant to its pandemic tally, which now stands at 338. There have been 204 Delta cases in Ottawa over the last 30 days.

The rate of infection among Ottawa’s unvaccinated vaccine-eligible population is now 15 times higher than it is for the fully vaccinated population. OPH says the local rate of infection per 100,000 residents for those vaccinated against the virus is 2.7, whereas the rate for those unvaccinated (or vaccinates with one dose under 14 days) is 41.3. The rate per 100,000 residents for those who are still waiting for their second shot is 13.2. 

OPH reports more than 80 per cent of all local residents older than 18 are fully immunized against COVID-19. When it comes to the city’s population over the age of 12, 79 per cent of residents have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 86 per cent have had their first shot. Local vaccination figures are updated by the health unit every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The number of daily diagnoses of COVID-19 has been rising steadily across Ontario in recent weeks, with 865 new cases reported today. Health Minister Christine Elliott says 692 of the new diagnoses are in people who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown. 

Ottawa residents being tested for COVID-19 are seeing positive results 1.9 per cent of the time. 

There have been 28,412 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa (27,582 resolved) since March of 2020.

Ottawa’s pandemic death toll remains at 593 as there hasn’t been a COVID-19-related death reported in the city since July 8, 2021.

OPH releases new COVID-19 workplace policies

OTTAWA – OPH is releasing new guidance for workplaces to be able to implement their own proof-of-vaccination policies, in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the community.

The health unit says local businesses and organizations “have a responsibility to maintain a safe work environment for employees and volunteers, and supporting employees and volunteers to get fully vaccinated is the best way to help protect them from the risks of COVID-19.”

 OPH adds implementing vaccine policies can also prevent outbreaks and build confidence in the workplace as the city faces a resurgence of the virus, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

OPH has implemented its own workplace vaccination policy.

The guide it’s providing does not include legal advice and OPH says it should not be relied on or treated as legal advice. Workplace vaccination policies should be in writing and adhere to any applicable occupational health safety laws, privacy laws, human rights laws, employment standards legislation, and or collective agreements. 

High-risk settings mandated by the Government of Ontario to have workplace vaccination policies in place must adhere to provincial requirements.

Workplace vaccination policies do not need to be submitted to OPH. 

Meanwhile, the local health unit continues to work with the Ottawa business community to ensure employers and employees have access to information about the benefits of vaccination and where to get vaccinated. Employers are strongly encouraged to allow employees time off from work to access a COVID-19 vaccine.

For further resources, employers can visit OPH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit for Employers.  

Workplaces, community organizations, places of worship and other groups can contact OPH to request a mobile vaccination clinic to administer first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on-site, at their own location. 

Ontario wants doctors to take care handing out vaccine medical exemptions

ONTARIO – Ontario’s medical regulator is urging doctors to be judicious about handing out medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccines. 

The message from the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario comes after the province announced a vaccine certificate program.

The system will require residents to be inoculated against COVID-19 to access some non-essential services unless there’s a medical reason they can’t be vaccinated. 

Dr. Nancy Whitmore says the college has already heard about requests for baseless medical exemptions, and physicians must not give in. 

She says there are very few legitimate medical reasons not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

They include an allergist-confirmed severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of its components, and a diagnosis of myocarditis or pericarditis after receiving an mRNA vaccine. 

She says those instances are extremely rare. 

The vaccine certificate system, announced yesterday (Sept. 1), is intended to increase immunization rates in a bid to curb the fourth wave of the COVID-19. 

Council to stay online this fall

OTTAWA – Don’t expect to see councillors around the council table in City Hall this fall.

Due to COVID-19, OPH and the Office of the City Clerk are recommending remote meetings continue in the coming months.

A memo from city clerk Rick O’Connor, in conjunction with OPH, says members of council and staff should continue to participate electronically in all council and committee meetings until further notice, likely until the end of 2021.

While the current number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are considered manageable, OPH says most current infections are due to the Delta variant, which has led to resurgences in other countries despite relatively high vaccination levels.

In addition, public health says current vaccination levels in Ottawa are not high enough to provide community immunity against a Delta resurgence.

“Continuing to work towards increasing vaccine levels further, performing preventive measures including masking and distancing, as well as keeping our number of contacts with others low, will be critically important this fall,” O’Connor wrote in the memo. “As such, OPH continues to support a prudent course of the status quo with respect to council and committee meetings.”

The memo also lays out three-stage framework for a return to in-person meetings:

  • Stage 1 – Status Quo – Fully virtual Council and Committee Meetings apart from the Chair (optional) and Clerks/tech staff as needed to facilitate the meeting
  • Stage 2 – Hybrid Meetings of Council or Council and Committees with combined virtual and in person participation by Members of Council
  • Stage 3 – Hybrid Meetings with In-person Public Attendance.

Council and city committees have been meeting remotely since March of 2020, when the pandemic began.

OCDSB reconsiders athletics season

OTTAWA – The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is reconsidering its decision to allow sports and other activities during the upcoming school year, set to begin next week.

The province gave boards the green light to run most extracurricular activities, but many other boards are still undecided.

Adding pressure to their decision, some public health units are advising boards and youth sports operators to either cancel the activities or postpone them as COVID-19 case numbers rise.

Earlier this week, the board mandated COVID-19 vaccines for OCDSB staff and volunteers, as well as mask wearing for all students including Kindergarten students.

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