Mayor, top doc working on 'made-in-Ottawa' approach to COVID-19 measures after 28-day shutdown
OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson will submit a "made-in-Ottawa approach" for COVID-19 measures following 28-days of the modified Stage 2 to the Ontario Government next week.
Watson says Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches is consulting with local businesses, Business Improvement Areas and health professionals on the next steps for COVID-19 measures, and he will send the report to Premier Doug Ford.
"The reality is that we think a localized solution for a localized problem is the best way to carry through," said Watson, about plans to submit a list of recommendations to the Ontario Government on a way forward for businesses to reopen during the pandemic.
The Ontario Government moved Ottawa into a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10, with new restrictions on bars, restaurants, nightclubs, gyms and fitness centres, and movie theatres for 28 days. The modified Stage 2 was scheduled to run until at least Nov. 6.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts, Watson said he fully supports Premier Ford's pledge to take a more "surgical approach" to decisions for closing sectors of the economy.
"When I spoke to the premier earlier this week, he asked for our suggestions and I said we'd put them in writing from Dr. Etches and we'll be sending those on to the province early next week," said Watson.
Speaking on CTV Morning Live Friday morning, Dr. Etches said she is looking at "sustainable measures" that will help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa moving forward.
"What can we do to make places like restaurants, bars, gyms, where there is the risk of transmission of COVID, safer so that we can find a way to strike that balance between the harms that come when people lose employment with the harms of COVID transmission."
Dr. Etches added the measures need to carry Ottawa through the winter.
"We want something that allows us to learn to live with COVID and keep the levels low. So, the actual specific number of people in a venue may need to depend on the size of the venue, that enables people to spread out."
The Science Advisory and Modelling Consensus Tables released data on Thursday showing there has been three outbreaks in bars and restaurants in Ottawa since Aug. 1, compared to 63 in long-term care homes and retirement homes and 74 outbreaks in schools and daycares. In Toronto, there have been 27 outbreaks in restaurants, bars and clubs over the past three months, accounting for 14 per cent of all outbreaks.
Mayor Watson told Newstalk 580 CFRA that with Ottawa geographically removed from Toronto, York and Peel, it makes sense for Ottawa to provide its own proposals to limit the spread of COVID-19 while allowing establishments to remain open.
"There's a willingness on the part of the province to not treat every single region the same way, because we're all different. We're not better than Toronto, but they're having a challenging time with restaurants, at least that's what the outbreak numbers show," said Watson.
Roberts asked the mayor whether bars, restaurants and gyms should be allowed to reopen given the current COVID-19 case numbers and the data released on Thursday.
"Our numbers have been very good compared to the other parts of the province that are considered hot zones, so we're trending in the right direction. All of our problems are not finished with this one chart," said Watson.
"I don't want to second-guess what Dr. Etches is going to put forward; but certainly given the numbers that we've seen yesterday, it would suggest that some form of opening for those businesses should at least be considered."
The mayor also echoed Dr. Etches comments on CTV Morning Live Friday morning that any restrictions to limit COVID-19 transmission must be sustainable.
"We don't want to go make a decision and then about a week and a half the numbers start going up and we have to go reconsider shutting it down. This is just too tumultuous," said Watson.
"My hope is that we bring forward some recommendations, that there's still some degree of restrictions in terms of seating, and number of people at the table and so on and hours of operation, because we don’t want the numbers to pop back up again."
Watson says he hopes new measures will be announced by Nov. 6 so establishments and businesses can prepare.
Roberts asked the mayor if he could assure restaurant owners and gym owners there is hope things could change by next weekend.
"Yah, in all of my discussions over the course of the last 24, 48 hours and the fact that our numbers continue to be relatively good compared certainly to the other hot spots, I feel quite optimistic the province has listened to us and Dr. Etches has reached out to that business community," said Watson.
"I'm hopeful that we'll see changes to the good after day 28."