Ottawa residents who have or may have COVID-19 and don't properly self-isolate could face steep fines under a new order from the city’s top doctor.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches announced on Tuesday she is invoking an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act that requires people to self-isolate if they test positive for COVID-19, have signs of symptoms, are a close contact of a positive test, are awaiting a test result or have reasonable grounds to believe they may have COVID-19.
“Failure to comply with this order could result in a fine of up to $5,000 for every day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues,” Etches said on Tuesday.
People under the order must remain in self-isolation for 14 days unless COVID-19 has been ruled out, and they must do everything they can to avoid exposing others.
“I don’t take these types of decisions and steps lightly,” Etches told a news conference on Tuesday. “However, I must do everything possible to reduce the transmission that’s currently happening in Ottawa.”
“We must again plank the curve.”
Etches reiterated the goals in resopnding ot the pandemic: to keep the level of COVID-19 transmission in the community from disrupting society in a detrimental way, and to limit hospitalizations and death.
"This level that we’re seeing … is too high for these purposes," she said.
The order would be enforced by Ottawa Public Health taking people to court who don’t comply with officials who call them to get information about when their symptoms started, who they were in contact with, and other details necessary for contact tracing.
“If we start to run into some resistance, then we can point to the order that already exists and say you know, we have the authority to collect this information, there are some consequences for you if you don’t provide it to us,” Etches said. “if people still are having a reluctance to provide us with the information we need to do our public health work, then we could take the next step and go to court."
Etches added that many people testing positive are between the ages of 20 and 39. Within that group, 40 per cent of the people who became ill in recent weeks acquired COVID-19 while in close contact with someone outside their household.
The number of cases in schools is also growing; Etches said 34 Ottawa schools have had someone test positive due to contact within a school setting.
Etches also said she doesn't believe the provincially-mandated social circles have worked.
“I don’t think the social circle concept has worked out, when I look at what we’re seeing in people’s behaviour, where one circle of 10 becomes a different circle of 10 overlapping on different days of the week,” she said. “The concept was that you need to limit your contacts.
“The simple message I’m going back to: fewer is better.”
You can read the full Class Section 22 Order here.