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Ottawa likely moving to Ontario’s COVID-19 red zone within the week: Dr. Etches

Dr. Vera Etches said Tuesday that Ottawa's COVID-19 metrics place it in the red zone of Ontario's reopening framework and residents and businesses should expect a formal move to tighter restrictions within the week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Rising levels of COVID-19 in Ottawa will likely warrant a shift from the orange-restrict level to the red-control zone on Ontario’s reopening framework in the coming days, the city’s top doctor said Tuesday.

Dr. Vera Etches said that multiple COVID-19 monitoring indicators in the nation’s capital have been firmly in the red zone for numerous days now.

Read more: Spiking COVID-19 cases put Ottawa into red zone territory

The city’s coronavirus incidence rate stands at 46.3 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, with the province’s cutoff for red stated at 40 cases per 100,000. Similarly, the city’s coronavirus positivity rate was 2.5 per cent in the past week, matching the province’s threshold for tighter control measures.

Among the restrictions in Ontario’s red zone are limits of 10 people inside restaurants and gyms and a maximum of five people indoors and 25 outdoors at a public event or social gathering. Check out a full list of red zone restrictions here.

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Confirmation from the province and timing of any move are both yet to come, as Etches told reporters she is set to have a conversation with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Tuesday afternoon to get his thoughts on the situation.

Traditionally, decisions about which regions will move between colour-coded sections of the framework are announced on Friday and come into effect the following Monday.

Etches didn’t explicitly say whether any shift would conform to that structure, but did confirm businesses will have at least a few days to adjust their operations to accommodate any impending change.

She ruled out a last-minute jump to red ahead of St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday, though she, Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Board of Health chair Keith Egli all encouraged residents to celebrate safely within their households or abide by public health advice if they opt to visit a bar or restaurant.

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Read more: Don’t plan a St. Patrick’s Day party, Ottawa health officials urge

Etches also urged residents not to wait for an official declaration from the province before adjusting their behaviour in line with the red zone protocols. The longer residents wait to adapt their behaviours, she said, the longer it will take to lower the levels of the virus in the community.

“The faster we act, the better. It’s in our control,” she said.

A shift to the red would disrupt a planned 100-person outdoor concert slated for March 27 at Lansdowne Park.

The event, dubbed “The Long Road Back” is arranged by the Ontario Festival Industry Task Force, with the National Arts Centre and the team behind Ottawa’s Bluesfest among the organizers.

It is intended to feature a performance by Ottawa soul-pop band The Commotions, with a requirement for patrons to present a negative rapid antigen test result from the last 48 hours before entering the outdoor venue.

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While Etches said Tuesday that OPH had been working with organizers to make the event as safe as possible, she said that the health unit had expressed concern and added that “now is not the time to be hosting concerts.” She noted, however, that the concert would have been permitted under Ontario’s orange zone restrictions.

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OPH had expressed to organizers that rapid antigen tests were not sufficient to reduce the risk of transmission at the proposed event, and encouraged measures such as distanced tables, and mask-wearing at the concert.

Organizers for the event have not returned Global News’s requests for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, OPH reported 59 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday but no new deaths related to the virus.

Read more: More than 500K COVID-19 tests taken in Ottawa during 1st year of pandemic

The number of people in hospital locally with COVID-19 is down to 20 with four people in the intensive care unit.

Active COVID-19 cases in the city stood at 620 as of Tuesday, down slightly from the day before.

More than 17,000 people in Ottawa booked coronavirus vaccination appointments in the first day the province’s central portal went live on Monday, according to Watson.

Appointments are now fully booked for the rest of the week at Ottawa’s first community vaccination clinic, the Nepean Sportsplex, with three additional clinics opening within the next week.

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