Continue to be COVID-wise as we enter Stage 3: Dr. Etches
OTTAWA -- On the eve of Ottawa moving into Stage 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan, the city's medical officer of health says she has a "lot of hope for the future" as we expand our activities and open more businesses.
However, Dr. Vera Etches says it is important for all Ottawa residents to continue to do their part to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
"It's important for people to realize that this is in their hands. When we talk about being COVID-wise, it is wearing a mask indoors that does make a difference," said Dr. Etches during an interview on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning.
"Absolutely stay home when you're sick, we're seeing cases because people go to work sick and we need to stop that transmission right by staying home. Of course the physical distancing is most important."
On Friday, restaurants and bars can reopen for indoor dining, and gyms, movie theatres and other businesses can reopen in Ottawa and across eastern Ontario.
On Wednesday, Dr. Etches told Council that residents should be prepared to live with the risk of COVID-19 in the community for the next one to two years. Dr. Etches explained why it's important for people to know COVID could be with us well into 2021.
"It is important to shift the longer term view and be realistic, but I have a lot of hope for the future. As Ottawans we made it through Stage 2, we're going to make it through the next year," said Dr. Etches.
"We did learn some new behaviours, one of those is how to wear a mask correctly that will help us. If we keep seeing these positive trends, we can adjust again.
Dr. Etches said it's important for residents to continue to be adaptable as the COVID-19 situation unfolds.
"We're going back to things that give us more support, the importance of working and going to school, that will help us make this more liveable. Yes, we need to apply some of these new behaviours for a longer time, but we'll adjust and review as we go along and maybe we can lift some of the restrictions."
CTV Morning Live host Annette Goerner asked Dr. Etches if an uptick in cases is inevitable as we expand our activities during the pandemic.
"I am expecting that the kinds of activities we're going back to may result in more close contact and that risk of rising cases," said Dr. Etches.
"That's what we've been preparing for, we want to be able to use our cluster detection system, do case and contact management to really break those chains of transmission as soon as we identify them."
Dr. Etches said Ottawa Public Health will monitor cases as there are more "higher risk activities", but it's possible to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
"It is possible. We made it through Stage 2, I have a lot of hope given our new behaviours and our adaptability that we'll be able to go back to more activities in a safer way," said Dr. Etches.
"This is a goal, this is what we want to achieve together. We want to keep the transmission of the virus low, and we do that by proceeding carefully."
On Wednesday, Council approved a bylaw with fines for people not wearing a face mask in indoor public spaces. Dr. Etches issued a public health directive last week making face masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces.
"It is the case that wearing a mask is a very important added layer of protection. The evidence has mounted and grows all the time that it keeps people's respiratory secretions to themselves in an environment where there is community transmission," said Dr. Etches on CTV Morning Live when asked about how long we may have to keep wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.
"So as long as we still have community transmission without a vaccine that's protecting us, we need to consider that layer of protection. Along with the most important thing is physical distancing."