Plan for smaller gatherings, events this summer, Ottawa's top doctor says
Fireworks explode behind the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill during Canada Day celebrations, in Ottawa on Wed., July 1, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's medical officer of health suggests we shouldn’t expect a return to large-scale events and festivals this summer as the COVID-19 vaccines roll out.
Appearing on CTV Morning Live Friday morning, Dr. Vera Etches was asked if she thinks we will have Canada Day celebrations and large festivals this summer, or will they be forced to cancel plans like last year.
"I think people will probably want to continue to celebrate Canada Day in smaller groups, as opposed to larger groups," said Dr. Etches. "For the festivals, the same idea. We want smaller events before we get to larger events."
The city of Toronto has already cancelled all city-led and city-permitted outdoor events up to and including Canada Day. Mayor Jim Watson says the city of Ottawa has not made a decision yet about events this spring and summer.
Etches says the vaccines will make a difference when it comes to deciding what restrictions need to remain in place.
"if we have significantly taken the pressure off the health care system by protecting those older adults that are most likely to be hospitalized, unfortunately, that we're avoiding deaths as well in that age group, that is encouraging," said Etches.
"We're going to evaluate closer to the summer, we’ll have a better idea of how much the vaccine is making it safer for us to gather again."
Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine timeline called for residents over the age of 65 to begin receiving the vaccine in June, while residents over 60 can roll up their sleeves to get the vaccine starting July 1. The timeline released on Wednesday was just for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, before Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Mayor Watson told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Thursday morning that the city will follow the advice of Dr. Etches and Ottawa Public Health when it comes to festivals and events this spring and summer.
"We haven't reached that decision yet, but I suspect we'll probably be in the same boat as a lot of other cities across the country," said Watson. "Will we be ready for a big celebration on July 1? At this point, I don't think that's likely."
The 2021 city of Ottawa budget included funding for festivals, even if events are cancelled this year due to COVID-19.
"Everyone wants to see Bluesfest and Jazzfest and all of the different festivals that are so important, but health will have to come first and foremost," said Watson.
CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Etches if she is feeling a sense of optimism about the months ahead in Ottawa.
"The vaccine makes a difference, it's just I do need to tell people not for a number of months," said Etches.
"We're talking about the summer, that's good I appreciate that, we still really have people who are unfortunately dying in our community and we're not quite there yet. So, a couple of more months, hang on, a few more months until we really get the older adults protected."