OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s top bureaucrat suggests the city is looking at a “three month window” to starting ramping up operations at municipal facilities and other city operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Manager Steve Kanellakos made the comment during Wednesday’s council meeting that focused on the novel coronavirus.

The City of Ottawa closed all recreation facilities, arenas, library branches, municipal child care centres and other municipal facilities until at least Sunday, April 5.

When asked by Councillor Shawn Menard about the possibility of reopening the facilities on that date, Kanellakos said April 5 was the initial goal post set during the early days of the pandemic.

“We’ve now shifted beyond April 5, and we’ve taken a three month window as our operating parameters to start planning mitigation measures and strategy and implementation,” said Kanellakos.

“We are taking a three month approach, and as we approach into that three months, we’ll reassess where we are at and then we will do another three month window.”

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told Council she supported the City of Ottawa’s three month window in planning during the pandemic, adding the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health will get direction from the province.

“Based on a medical assessment of the virus in the community, and the measures that are helping to decrease that transmission, I think a three month timeline for planning ahead is very reasonable,” said Dr. Etches.

Kanellakos also told Council that the city will not be issuing permits for sports fields until at least the end of June.

Emergency operations mode

The City of Ottawa’s top bureaucrat told reporters after Wednesday’s Council meeting that the city will remain in emergency operations mode through the summer, and staff are now putting plans in place to ensure essential services continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Jim Watson declared a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows the city to deploy emergency operations quicker.

Kanellakos says the City of Ottawa expects absenteeism rates among City Staff to rise in the weeks ahead due to the virus, school and child care closures and other issues.

“Our staff will start to diminish because of absenteeism. So we need to keep almost an A team and a B team. So one team on the bench and one team working, so that we can rotate our people through to sustain us through this period.”

Kanellakos says every department has been tasked to look at their staffing levels, and work with the unions to address staffing.

The emphasis for city services will focus on water, waste water, emergency services and other essential services.

Kanellakos told reporters that the City of Ottawa expects to remain in emergency operations mode through the summer.

 “It’s going to take a while for everything to settle, and I think the way the city delivers services and gets back to a normal rhythm is going to be longer than we anticipate,” said Kanellakos.

“I think to get back to our normal rhythm of all the other work that we do, policy work. I think we’re going to be very much in a mitigation and recovery mode for a quite a while.”