'Don't give up hope': Ottawa's top doctor insists better days ahead during pandemic
OTTAWA -- With Ontario's stay-at-home order set to remain in effect for at least three more weeks, Ottawa's medical officer of health insists better days are ahead as vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 levels decrease.
"Don't give up hope. We are getting there," said Dr. Vera Etches on CTV Morning Live Friday morning.
"The levels are coming down. The other great news is that vaccine coverage is increasing. Within a couple of days, we will probably have 50 per cent of people over 18 in Ottawa that have protection of one dose of vaccine. This is significant."
As of Friday, 49 per cent of Ottawa's population over the age of 18 had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We're going to be able to help younger people down to age 12 and above have that protection from COVID through vaccination and that will lead to better days. It's coming!," said Etches.
"We see already the importance of the vaccination. It's decreasing deaths among older adults so we will get there. For now, it's not an either or, please do get outside, do enjoy activities and if you're going to meet up with others use those harm reduction measures – keep your distance, do it outside and if you're going to be in close contact, that wearing a mask makes a difference."
Ontario extended the current stay-at-home order until June 2, keeping restrictions in place on social gatherings, non-essential businesses, outdoor recreational activities and in-person learning. Premier Doug Ford said extending the order an additional two weeks will help deliver the "most normal July and August possible."
Etches says the stay-at-home order and the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is having an impact on the COVID-19 situation in the community.
"We are on the right track in terms of bringing the levels of COVID down in our community, so the stay-at-home order is working. In that regard, I think it makes sense to keep up the work that we're doing," said Etches.
"It's hard for businesses, we need to support them with takeout and curbside pick-up. What it means for all of us too is to carry on with limiting our contacts as much as we can to the people in our households."
Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News at Five Thursday night that Ontario had "little choice" but to extend the COVID-19 stay-at-home order beyond the Victoria Day long weekend.
"It's the good weather this weekend and of course the long May 24 weekend, which is a concern and I think that's one of the reasons why the province pushed it back to June 2," said Watson.
"I understand people are really tired, they're frustrated, but we need to sort of hunker down for this last two weeks so that we can actually open things up like golf courses and soccer pitches and so on in June, July and August and have some what of a normal summer. I just don't want to see us take one step forward and then two steps back."
Watson urged Ottawa residents to "hunker down" and follow the COVID-19 restrictions for a few more weeks so we can have a more normal summer.
"People are fatigued and we need to give them some hope, and my hope is that this will be the last of the lockdowns. We'll hunker down, keep wearing our masks so that we can open up some of these outdoor facilities for sports enthusiasts and we can get kids back for at least 30 days in June to their classroom," said Watson.
CTV Morning Live host Annette Goerner asked Etches that if Ottawa residents "put their heads down and follow the rules" for the next three weeks, could schools and outdoor amenities open in June.
"I do think these things are possible. We're on a right path, I really encourage everyone to continue thinking of where you may have a COVID blind spot where COVID might be transmitted, choose those outdoor locations when you're going to be engaging in physical activity and keep your distance from people outside your household – it's making a difference," said Etches.
The extension of the stay-at-home order means golf courses and outdoor amenities, including tennis and basketball courts remain closed in Ottawa and across Ontario.
"We know that it is important to get outside, the outside is much less risk for COVID transmission than inside and we need that physical activity," said Etches.
"We need to enjoy the beautiful sun we have coming up this week and we also need to choose the activities that allow us to keep distance from others. Some of these activities they are probably activities we can manage the risk by avoiding close contact in the line-ups, playing with members of our household. These are the kinds of choices we can make when the province allows these activities again to be able to participate in sports and reduce that risk of transmission when in close contact with others."