People in Ottawa with COVID-19 will soon have a designated site to self-isolate and to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus throughout their household thanks to a new site run by the public health unit and funding from the federal government.
Ottawa Public Health will run a voluntary self-isolation site at a local hotel for anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus starting on Dec. 21.
The stay is completely free and voluntary for any occupants, who will be referred to the site via OPH’s contact tracing and case management team. Transportation to and from the site will be provided by OPH, and all meals are included as part of the stay.
The 107-room site will run for the next six months and is funded through $4.7 million in contributions from the federal government.
“This is going to be a welcome, secure, temporary home for people to self-isolate, especially those who cannot do so safely in their own home,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, at an online event announcing the new site on Thursday morning.
The self-isolation site will not provide health care to its occupants. Rather, Etches said the site will act as an “alternate home” to the roughly 80 per cent of people who test positive for the virus but do not require hospitalization.
Etches said the site is meant to be a place to “rest and recover” while taking away the “fear and anxiety of transmitting the virus to their loved ones.”
Similar models of self-isolation sites have been piloted with success in Toronto and Peel region, Etches said.
The new project comes directly from feedback OPH has heard from Ottawa residents, especially through the public health unit’s partners at the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership and community health centres.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Ottawa’s Black and racialized population, according to OPH data.
In seeking to answer why these communities are hit harder in the pandemic, Etches and other local health experts have pointed to the social determinants of health. A lack of access to reliable transportation, nutrition and employment that doesn’t put workers at risk can compound and lead to higher rates of infection among Black and racialized Ottawans.
Housing density is another key factor — once the virus enters a home, it can be difficult to stem its spread without access to a place to self-isolate.
The voluntary self-isolation site, therefore, is an effort to keep the home safe while COVID-19 runs its course.
“Voluntary isolation is a proven way to reduce risk of spreading among household contacts,” Etches said Thursday.