City of Ottawa lifting COVID-19 state of emergency
Ottawa City Hall. (File photo)
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has announced the municipal state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end.
Speaking at council on Wednesday, Watson said the state of emergency, in place since March 25, 2020, will officially end at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
"The pandemic is certainly not over, but we continue to make great progress in Ottawa in terms of high vaccination rates, low hospitalization rates and other key public health indicators," Watson said in opening remarks. "I've advised the province that the municipal state of emergency will end as of 12:01 a.m. tomorrow."
The state of emergency gives the city abilities it normally doesn’t have such as rapid procurement and reassigning staff. Emergency services general manager Anthony Di Monte said Wednesday those tools are no longer needed.
Watson says the city's emergency operations centre will move to activated operations.
"The municipal state of emergency that I declared on March 25, 2020 provided the conditions for the city to be nimble in the procurement and organization of resources, including our staff," Watson said. "I've been assured that deescalating into activated operations will not affect day-to-day operations, nor will it impede our ability to respond to future provincial direction on the pandemic."
Activated operations is the third-highest emergency response level in the city, behind a state of emergency and ahead of situational awareness operations and enhanced operations. According to a city document, Activated Operations indicates a situation that requires the engagement of the Senior Leadership Team through the mobilization of the Emergency Operations Centre.
The state of emergency was declared two weeks after Ottawa recorded its first official case of COVID-19 and eight days after Ontario declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic. At that time, Ottawa Public Health was investigating 25 confirmed and 13 indeterminate cases of COVID-19 in the city.
Watson said the strides in vaccination in Ottawa helped inform the decision to end the state of emergency locally.
"We are continuing to make strong progress in our vaccine campaign. As of today, 83 per cent of Ottawa residents 18 and older have received one dose and 67 per cent have been fully vaccinated. That is truly remarkable," he said. "To date, we have administered over 1.3 million doses in our community clinics, pharmacies, pop-up clinics, and primary care providers."
City mask bylaw to lapse
The city of Ottawa’s temporary mask bylaw is set to lapse next month, but masks will still be required in indoor public places.
Council has had to vote every three months to extend the bylaw, but they didn’t do so on Wednesday, meaning it will come to an end Aug. 26.
Di Monte explained that the city instituted the bylaw when there was no provincial tool to ensure mask-wearing, but then provincial regulations came into effect.
“We feel that provincial regulation gives us sufficient tools,” he said, adding that if the province removes regulations after Aug. 26, the city can bring its bylaw back if needed.
Associate medical officer of health Dr. Brent Moloughney said masking remains an important public health measure with a large number of people still unvaccinated.
“Masking has been very effective thing that we can do for each other to prevent transmission. Really important with asymptomatic,” he said.