- Ontario is giving out free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests at some stores.
- Ottawa’s hospitalizations and wastewater levels continue to decline.
- There’s frustration COVID-19 rules are still sidelining Ontario school sports.
- A court denies an injunction for unvaccinated Quebec caregivers.
The Ontario government is distributing a box of free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests per household per visit at grocery stores, pharmacies and other settings starting today. Participating locations are listed on the province’s website.
Ottawa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been trending down for nearly two weeks, while its average coronavirus wastewater level has been dropping since late last week.
The capital reported three more deaths of residents with COVID-19 on Wednesday. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health reported one more death.
Many Ontario school sports teams are still stuck on the sidelines due to COVID-19 restrictions — and critics say that hurts low-income and marginalized student athletes the most.
A Quebec court has rebuffed unvaccinated caregivers who were hoping to obtain an injunction allowing them to enter nursing homes without showing proof of vaccination.
Numbers to watch
Testing can’t meet demand during the Omicron wave, meaning many people with COVID-19 won’t be reflected in the case count. Hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring can help fill in some of the grey areas.
The average measurement of coronavirus in Ottawa’s wastewater is declining after a plateau. The Brockville and Kemptville sites have differing trends. Other wastewater charts haven’t been updated in about a week.
There are48 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Wednesday’s Ottawa Public Health (OPH) report. Seven of these patients are in an ICU. Both numbers are dropping.
This count also doesn’t tell the entire hospital picture: as of Monday, there were 139 hospital patients with COVID in Ottawa split between those needing care for COVID and those in hospital for other reasons who happen to have COVID. This number has also been dropping.
As of Wednesday, Ottawa has had 59,960 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 1,635 known active cases — a number that may actually be much higher — and 723 residents have died from the illness.
Outside of Ottawa, the wider region has about 120 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with about 30 of them still needing intensive care. Both numbers have been slowly dropping and don’t include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, which has instituted a different way of reporting.
In eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa, 338 people with COVID-19 have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 273.
What are the rules?
The province’s private gathering limits are 10 people inside and 25 outside. Indoor dining is allowed at 50 per cent capacity.
Gyms, movie theatres, museums, retail businesses and many other establishments can open at 50 per cent capacity. Some surgeries put on pause last month can resume.
The province plans to roll back its COVID-19 rules in stages, with more capacity changes slated for Feb. 21.
The province’s vaccine passport is required for many public places for people above 12 years and 12 weeks old. People can prove they’ve had at least two vaccine doses with a paper or digital document that has a QR code.
WATCH | What Quebec plans to do over the next five weeks:
Quebec’s health minister said last month that people will eventually have to have three doses for the passport.
What can I do?
Though this wave seems to have peaked, this level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk and is making staffing a challenge in many sectors, delaying many medical procedures and increasing the workload of staff who aren’t sick or isolating.
Health officials say people should recommit to the fundamentals of getting all vaccine doses as they’re eligible for and staying home when sick.
WATCH | Vaccinated people’s response to an Omicron infection:
Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions get help with errands and have supplies in case they need to isolate.
Travellers older than 12 years and four months must be fully vaccinated to board a plane, train or marine vessel in Canada.
The federal government is officially advising against non-essential international travel.
There are limited exceptions.
The U.S. requires all adults crossing a land, air or water border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of departure.
The hope is that other countries will accept provincial or territorial proof of vaccination.
Both local provinces generally recommend doses for kids age five to 11 be given at least eight weeks apart for the best possible protection. Some health authorities say parents can request a shorter interval.
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Guidance varies on when, not if, people should get a third dose after contracting COVID-19. Experts do agree people shouldn’t get it until they’re feeling recovered.
There have been more than five million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region, which has about 2.3 million residents.
Eligible people can look for provincial appointments online or over the phone at 1-833-943-3900.
Pharmacies and some family doctors offer vaccines through their own booking systems.
All adults are eligible for a third dose; the general recommendation between second and third is three months.
Symptoms, treatment and testing
“Long-haul” symptoms can last for months.
If you have severe symptoms, call 911.
In eastern Ontario:
Only high-risk people with symptoms or who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can get a laboratory-checked PCR test due to Omicron demand.
Qualified people can check with their health unit for clinic locations and hours. Other people with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19 and isolate.
Only students and teachers who show symptoms at school will have access to PCR tests. Rapid and take-home tests are for the general public at participating stores and in some child-care settings when risk is high.
Travellers who need a test have local options to pay for one.
In western Quebec:
Quebec has also stopped giving PCR tests to the general public.
PCR tests will be reserved for high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care homes, detention centres and homeless shelters.
People can report rapid test results online.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis:
First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a test in both Ontario and Quebec.
Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing and vaccines, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.
Akwesasne has COVID-19 test and vaccine information online or at 613-575-2341. There’s help for people who need essentials while isolating. The neighbouring Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also offering tests.
It has had more than 1,800 residents test positive for COVID-19 and has reported 19 deaths between its northern and southern sections.
People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call the COVID hotline at 819-449-8085 for a test. Ode Widokazowin can help people in isolation get groceries at 819-449-2323.
It had more than 150 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-January, and 148 of those cases are since Dec. 3, 2021.
People in Pikwàkanagàn can call 613-625-1175 for tests and vaccines. It’s offering rapid and PCR tests three mornings a week.
The community didn’t have any confirmed COVID-19 cases until December 2021; it had 73 confirmed cases as of Feb. 4.
Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a test can call its community health team at 613-967-3603, text it at 613-686-5510 or send it an email. It had 91 confirmed cases and two deaths until it paused sharing its count in early January 2022.