A person walks along the sidewalk near Parliament Hill, on Jan. 14, 2021. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Good morning. Here is the latest news on COVID-19 and its impact on Ottawa.

Fast Facts:

  • Ottawa Public Health reported its lowest daily COVID-19 case count so far this year and other improving trends.
  • The provincial government says it will offer asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 in schools across the province.
  • OC Transpo is holding a one-day mask enforcement blitz tomorrow.
  • Ontario has reported its first confirmed case of the South African variant of COVID-19 in a resident from the Peel Region.
  • The full length of the Rideau Canal Skateway opens this morning with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

COVID-19 by the numbers in Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health data):

  • New COVID-19 cases: 22 new cases on Monday.
  • Total COVID-19 cases: 13,358
  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 36.8
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa: 1.8 per cent (Jan. 25 – Jan. 31)
  • Reproduction Number: 0.87 (seven day average)

Testing:

Who should get a test?

Ottawa Public Health says there are five reasons to seek testing for COVID-19:

  • You are showing COVID-19 symptoms. OR
  • You have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by Ottawa Public Health or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app. OR
  • You are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by Ottawa Public Health. OR
  • You are eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care OR
  • You have traveled to the U.K., or have come into contact with someone who recently traveled to the U.K., please go get tested immediately (even if you have no symptoms).

Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Ottawa:

There are several sites for COVID-19 testing in Ottawa. To book an appointment, visit https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/shared-content/assessment-centres.aspx

  • The Brewer Ottawa Hospital/CHEO Assessment Centre: Open Monday to Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • COVID-19 Drive-thru assessment centre at National Arts Centre: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • The Moodie Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • The Heron Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Ray Friel Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The COVID-19 Assessment Centre at McNabb Community Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

COVID-19 screening tool:

The COVID-19 screening tool for students heading back to in-person classes can be found here.

Symptoms:

Classic Symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath

Other symptoms: sore throat, difficulty swallow, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, new or unexplained runny nose or nasal congestion

Less common symptoms: unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, headache, delirium, chills, red/inflamed eyes, croup

Active cases drop below 600; testing rate below 2 per cent

Ottawa Public Health is reporting continued improvement in weekly COVID-19 trends in the city as students return to in-class learning.

With 22 more people testing positive, the lowest one-day figure so far in 2021, the weekly rate of cases per 100,000 residents is down to just under 37 cases and the weekly testing posivity rate average is at 1.8 per cent, the first time it's been below 2 per cent since before Christmas.

No new deaths were reported Monday. The pandemic death toll in Ottawa stands at 422 residents.

  COVID-19 Cases in Ottawa
Infogram

Ontario announces targeted province-wide asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools

Ontario’s Ministry of Education announced that it will offer asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 in schools across the province. 

On Monday, several more public health units in Ontario, including Ottawa, allowed students to return to in-class learning. 

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that by identifying cases in schools early, future public health decisions regarding in-class learning can be better informed.

It will be up to the local public health units to identify which schools should conduct the targeted asymptomatic testing, which will involve both PCR and rapid tests.

OC Transpo to hold one-day mask blitz on Wednesday

OC Transpo says it will be holding a one-day blitz to reinforce mandatory mask policies on public Transit this Wednesday.

Masks have been mandatory on OC Transpo since June 15, 2020. Last fall, OC Transpo held a two-week blitz to remind customers about the rules. During the first "Operation Mask Up" blitz, 10 tickets were handed out and two dozen customers were denied boarding for refusing to wear masks.

In a memo to city council on Monday, Transportation Services General Manager John Manconi said customers have been wearing masks far more regularly since the first blitz in October, with just two fines handed out since then.

Customers with valid reasons not to wear masks, such as small children or anyone with a medical exemption, will not be fined; however, customers who refuse to wear a mask and do not have any exemptions will not be permitted to enter the transit system.

Last Wednesday, city council voted to extend the mandatory mask bylaw until the end of April.  

First case of South African variant confirmed in Ontario

The first case of the South African COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in Ontario.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health confirmed the case of the variant, also known as B.1.351, while speaking at a news conference on Monday.

He said the variant was found in a resident in Peel Region who “has no history of travel and no known contact with a person who has travelled.”

As of Monday, Ontario had also confirmed 69 cases of the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7.

Full length of Rideau Canal Skateway opens today

For the first time since 2019, all 7.8 km of the Rideau Canal Skateway will be available for exercise and local use as of 8 a.m. today.

The NCC announced the news Monday afternoon, following 2.4 km opening last Thursday and another 3.3 km opening on Sunday. 

Last year, a stretch of the Skateway downtown between Rideau Street and Laurier Avenue never opened. It was the first time in the Skateway's then 50 seasons that the entire 7.8 km was not available for skating.

The Skateway is open for exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic, and does not have snack stands, skate rentals, or gathering points. The NCC has asked that only residents who live nearby access the canal, pointing out that there are many other options for skating all over the city.

--With files from CTV Toronto's Phil Tsekouras and Kayla Goodfield.