Relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions causing 'confusion on the social side': Dr. Etches

Ottawa Public Health urges people to stay safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy: Ottawa Public Health)

Ottawa’s medical officer of health says the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions has “caused confusion on the social side” for residents during the pandemic.

The Ontario Government has slowly eased some of the COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing golf courses and businesses with a street entrance to reopen.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Vera Etches if Ottawa is ready to reopen regionally.

“It depends on what reopens means. I think there’s been some confusion as some relaxation has occurred of the measures on the economic side, related to going back to work, to going to be able to access services,” said Dr. Etches.

“It’s caused confusion on the social side in terms of how much can we connect with others. What is being relaxed, what isn’t. We need to be very clear there’s still value to keep our distance from others.”

Dr. Etches says it is important to keep a distance of two metres from others while interacting.

“When I just hear the word reopen, it can send the wrong signal. We’re in this for a long time, we need to continue to be careful because there is still virus in our community,” said Dr. Etches .

As of June 3, Ottawa Public Health reported 1,977 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 247 deaths. As of Wednesday, there were less than 100 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

Dr. Etches told CTV Morning Live there are undetected cases of COVID-19 in the community, and any resident with COVID-19 symptoms needs to present for testing.

The medical officer of health says some businesses and activities can resume this spring and summer, as long as residents continue to practice physical distancing.

“Some activities can start to happen again, with lower risk. To me it’s all about what is the activity, what is the level of risk – this is something we’re hoping we can work with people of Ottawa to build that understanding,” said Dr. Etches.

“If you’re meeting outside, and you’re keeping two metres away it’s lower risk. If you’re having a house party, it’s higher risk.”

Last week, Ottawa Public Health released a graphic looking at low risk and high risk activities for people during the pandemic.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday that a decision regarding the reopening of restaurant patios will be made “within the week.”

Mandatory masks

Dr. Etches is once again “strongly recommending” Ottawa residents wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible or they are indoors.

“People have started doing this, we’ve seen it. Workplaces have picked it up,” said Dr. Etches when asked by Roberts about making masks mandatory.

“We’re monitoring the situation. Ottawa residents and people in Ottawa have done their part so far and I have a lot of confidence that people understand this is something they’re doing to protect others around them.”

Council votes next Wednesday on a plan to make masks mandatory on OC Transpo buses, the O-Train, in stations and on Para Transpo.