Ottawa’s city clerk will decide in mid-January whether to resume in-person council meetings in 2022, as health officials keep an eye on the new Omicron COVID-19 variant of concern.

Mayor Jim Watson told reporters last week that the city clerk was looking at a return of in-person meetings in the new year, after nearly two years of virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gathering restrictions.

However, in a memo to council late Wednesday afternoon, city clerk Rick O’Connor recommends staying with the status quo of virtual meetings for the rest of this year, and consider going to ‘hybrid’ council meetings in 2022.

"On the advice of Ottawa Public Health (OPH),and recognizing the uncertainty of future impacts of the virus, it is recommended that the final decision on whether to proceed with in-person participation at the January 26th City Council meeting be made in mid-January,2022, taking into account the COVID-19 situation at that time," said O'Connor.

A 'hybrid' council meeting would allow for both in-person and virtual participation by council members.

O'Connor says his office will announce no later than the third week of January whether the Jan. 26 council meeting will proceed as a hybrid council meeting or continue with the status quo online.

If council moves to a hybrid model, councilllors would be permitted to participate remotely using Zoom or attend in person. The city clerk would work with the city manager and general managers to decide if key staff should participate in-person or online during meetings.

"It is recommended that hybrid meetings be implemented for Council first, with Standing Committee, Transit Commission, Sub-Committee and Advisory Committee meetings continuing in their current virtual format through the winter, subject to further review once hybrid Council meetings have been fully implemented and public health restrictions are potentially further relaxed," said O'Connor.

O'Connor says Ottawa Public Health has recommended the following safety precautions in if-person meetings resume to make it safe for councilors and staff, along with reducing the risk of transmission.

  • Implementation of a universal vaccine policy
  • Screening for any symptoms 
  • Masking
  • Physical distancing
  • Hand hygiene
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Advise people of their risk for severe COVID, especially if older or have chronic health conditions