Anti-vaccine protests, the election's home stretch and LRT turns two: Five stories to watch in Ottawa this week

The Ottawa sign on York Street in Ottawa's ByWard Market. (Photo by Jacob Meissner on Unsplash)

It's the first full week of school in Ottawa, but COVID-19 cases are on the rise, more protests against vaccine mandates are planned, and Ottawa's LRT turns two years old.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca takes a look at five stories to watch this week.

Anti-vaccine mandate protests

Protesters opposed to vaccine mandates are expected to protest outside of hospitals across Canada on Monday, including the Ottawa Hospital.

A group called Canadian Frontline Nurses is organizing the protests.

Previous large protests in places like Toronto and Vancouver drew widespread condemnation. A similar protest in Cornwall, Ont. prompted health officials to warn the 100 to 150 attendees to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 because of reports someone went to the protest with active COVID-19.

Alex Munter, the President and CEO of CHEO, said on Twitter he was disappointed to learn that new protests are planned outside hospitals.

"Harassing and intimidating sick people, their families and healthcare workers isn't free speech. It's just harassment and intimidation," Munter wrote.

Disappointed to hear that more super-spreader events are being planned for Monday outside hospitals, including here in Eastern Ontario.
Harassing and intimidating sick people, their families and healthcare workers isn't free speech. It's just harassment and intimidation. https://t.co/CWKBjihxtw

— Alex Munter (@AlexMunter) September 11, 2021

Toronto doctor Michael Warner urged demonstrators in a video message on Twitter to protest somewhere other than outside a hospital.

"People are entitled to protest and to make their voices heard. At the same time, hospitals are not the place to do it," he said. "Hospitals are sacred place of healing. It's where people go for safety, for protection, for treatment, for love, for peace, and sometimes for death. They are not the place to be yelling and screaming and intimidating."

Hospitals are not the place for anti-vaccination protests. pic.twitter.com/ymeYiustTH

— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) September 11, 2021

First full week of school in Ottawa

School students across Ottawa will be attending their first full week of classes this week.

Ottawa's French public and catholic boards returned to class in late August, ahead of Labour Day, while Ottawa's English boards resumed classes last week.

The school boards are already reporting some COVID-19 cases in their communities, with the exception of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board which hasn't updated its COVID-19 dashboard since mid-August.

Some classes are in isolation already as a result, including 18 classes at the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est as of Friday.

Students and staff are required to screen themselves daily for COVID-19 before going to school and are told to stay home if they are sick. With certain symptoms, testing is also required.

See the latest news on school in Ottawa on our Back-to-School page.

COVID-19 cases rising

COVID-19 case counts in Ottawa have been steadily rising in September, but hospitalizations have remained relatively steady.

Daily case counts in Ottawa have been in the double digits every day this month. On Saturday, OPH reported 75 cases, which was the highest daily case count in Ottawa since late May.

The number of active COVID-19 cases has risen steadily from 387 on Sept. 1 to 422 on Sept. 10, according to OPH figures.

However, the number of COVID-19 patients ending up in the hospital has been steady. There were 10 people in local hospitals with COVID-19 on Sept. 1, with one in the ICU. On Sept. 12, OPH reported seven COVID-19 patients with one in the ICU.

The pace of vaccinations, while slower than the mass push over the summer, has increased since Ontario announced its proof of vaccination system. New data from OPH will be released this week.

Final week of the federal election campaign

This is the final full week of the 2021 election campaign. Party leaders have debated and will now be fanning across the country to campaign with local candidates ahead of election day on Sept. 20.

Advance polls remain open until 9 p.m. on Monday and returning offices will take special ballots until 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Voters can also register to vote by mail up until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

See more local election news on our 2021 Election page.

Ottawa's LRT turns two

The Confederation Line LRT will be celebrating an anniversary this week.

The light rail transit line opened to the public on Sept. 14, 2019 amid much fanfare following a lengthy construction process that experienced numerous delays.

Within weeks, stuck doors, stopped trains, and other issues would lead to crowded platforms and frustration among customers.

Ridership on the LRT plunged in 2020 as COVID-19 lockdowns and remote working kept its usual riders away from the downtown core for months. During this time, OC Transpo said a lot of work was done to rectify the problems that plagued the line in 2019. This included a number of full line shutdowns to allow Rideau Transit Maintenance to make repairs.

OC Transpo said that service reliability was incredibly high during the last year, until a derailment on the line in August shut down service for five straight days. Issues with axle bearings were discovered on 10 train cars.

While some councillors called for an emergency meeting of the Transit Commission, the mayor and the commission chair were opposed. The Transit Commission will meet on Sept. 20.