Eased restrictions in long-term care, earlier second doses, and will we see more zeroes? Five stories to watch in Ottawa this week

Colourful spring flowers and trees bloom as people visit the arboretum in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Restrictions are easing in long-term care homes in Ontario, more people will be able to move up their second dose appointments while the city warns supply is limited, and will we see more zeroes in COVID-19 reporting?

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at five stories to watch this week in Ottawa.

Eligibility to book earlier second dose vaccine appointments expands, but city warns of limited supply

The Ontario government is allowing more people to get their second COVID-19 dose earlier than the 16-week interval starting Monday.

As of 8 a.m. on June 7, anyone 70 and over, as well as people who received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine on or before April 18, will be eligible to book a second dose appointment at a mass immunization clinic using the provincial booking system.

However, the City of Ottawa is advising residents that supplies of vaccine are limited for people who are looking to get an earlier second dose.

Last week, the province opened up earlier bookings to people 80 and older but a glitch in the system prevented anyone in Ottawa from booking appointments for three days.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the CTV News at Six on Saturday that the city doesn't know if it will be getting additional doses to meet the demand.

In a memo to council last Thursday, general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte said the shortened second dose interval for residents 70 and older would add up to 80,000 more people looking for earlier appointments in June, "that are simply not available."

When will Step 1 begin in Ontario?

Ontarians can expect to learn this week whether Step 1 of the province's new reopening framework will begin earlier than the projected date of June 14.

Health Minister Christine Elliott hinted last week that the first step of reopening, which would relax restrictions on many outdoor activities, including patio dining, could happen a few days earlier than planned; however, the province's chief medical officer of health also said he was monitoring a slight uptick in daily case counts late last week as possibly linked to the Victoria Day long weekend.

Dr. David Williams said data from this weekend would help him advise the premier about the possibility of an earlier reopening date.

On Sunday, Ontario reported its lowest daily case count in nearly eight months.

Restrictions ease in long-term care homes

Starting Wednesday, fully immunized residents of long-term care homes will have some additional freedoms.

Residents will be able to leave their long-term care homes for day trips and overnight trips, and those with mobility limitations or health issues who cannot leave their homes will be allowed one extra visitor at a time inside, in addition to their essential caregivers.

Long-term care residents will also be allowed to briefly hug visitors, regardless of vaccination status, and more close physical contact, such as handholding, will be permitted if both the resident and the visitor are fully immunized.

In Ottawa, more than 95 per cent of long-term care home residents have been fully immunized since March.

No more red zones in Quebec as province’s reopening plan continues

Quebec's reopening plan continues this week with an additional easing of restrictions.

Some regions will be moving to the Level 2 or "yellow zone" on Monday, though the Outaouais region is to remain in Level 3 or "orange" for at least one more week.

Starting Friday, bars will be allowed to reopen their terrasses across Quebec.

There will be no red zones anywhere in Quebec as of Monday, when Montreal and Laval move to the orange level.

Will we see more zeroes in COVID-19 reports this week?

Several "zeroes" were reported across Ontario and Quebec this weekend, when it comes to COVID-19, and health officials will be watching to see if this becomes a trend.

Public Health Ontario reported zero new cases of COVID-19 in four of the six public health units in eastern Ontario on Sunday: the Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Hastings Prince Edward Public Health; Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health; and the Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit. New cases were reported in Ottawa and Renfrew County.

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health also reported zero active cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

In Ottawa, active cases remain above 500, but Ottawa Public Health reported zero active community outbreaks for the first time in several weeks. There are 13 outbreaks in health-care institutions, and three in child-care settings.

In Quebec, zero COVID-19 deaths were reported across the province on Sunday.