Five stories to watch this week in Ottawa

A server brings an order to patrons on a steakhouse's outdoor patio in Ottawa on the first day of Ontario's first phase of re-opening amidst the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

COVID-19 cases remain low, vaccinations keep coming, and Ontario moves to Step 3. looks at five stories to watch in Ottawa this week.

Ottawa moves to Step 3

Ottawa will move to Step 3 of Ontario's reopening plan at 12:01 a.m. Friday, five days ahead of schedule, allowing indoor dining to return, gyms and movie theatres to reopen and other restrictions to lift.

The Ontario government announced last week that it would move ahead with reopening on Friday given the favourable situation in the province with regard to COVID-19.

Social gatherings and organized public events will be limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, indoor religious services or ceremonies will be limited to the number of people that can maintain two metres physical distancing, as will indoor and outdoor dining and retail.

Gyms, casinos, movie theatres, museums and zoos can also reopen with 50 per cent capacity.

The province will remain in Step 3 for at least 21 days, which was the prescribed timeline for the other two steps, both of which ended early.

At least 80 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and up needs to have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75 per cent should receive their second dose before the province moves beyond Step 3, with no public health unit having fewer than 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated.

Where do vaccines go from here?

The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in Ottawa has been breaking records in recent weeks, but there are signs the number of people seeking first doses is slowing down.

Between last Wednesday and Friday, for example, Ottawa Public Health reported that more than 37,000 people received second doses but fewer than 3,000 first shots were administered.

As of Friday, 81 per cent of the population 12 and older in Ottawa has had at least one dose and 49 per cent is fully vaccinated. Ottawa's medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has said her goal is to achieve 90 per cent vaccination coverage among the eligible population.

Residents who have yet to receive a first dose of the vaccine can now walk in to any city-run community or popup clinic without an appointment. It's a measure the city is hoping will help reach those who have yet to book an appointment.

Ottawa Public Health provides vaccination coverage updates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

COVID-19 cases

Sunday marked the eighth straight day of single-digit COVID-19 case counts with a single new case, according to Ottawa Public Health.

Case counts in Ottawa have been down significantly in July and the number of known active cases has been at its lowest level since the start of the first wave for more than a week.

Ottawa's wastewater monitoring has been showing a declining trend, but the weekly testing positivity rate rose last Friday to 1.1 per cent from 0.6 per cent. It was at 0.5 per cent last Monday. OPH also reported its first reproduction number above 1 in months on Sunday, though the figure that estimates how quickly the virus spreads has been fluctuating in recent days and it's unclear if there will be a sustained period of time in which the R(t) number suggests the virus is spreading more quickly.

Several Ottawa hospitals reported zero COVID-19 patients last week. There were two people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday.

  COVID-19 Cases in Ottawa

Fans in the stands

Live sports with fans in the stands will be returning to Ottawa this Saturday.

The Ottawa BlackJacks, of the Canadian Elite Basketball League, will be allowing up to 1,000 fans into the Arena at TD Place for their final three home games of the regular season, on July 17, July 26, and Aug. 4.

This will be the first professional sports team in Ottawa to allow fans inside and this could mean fans will be in stands for other teams such as Atletico Ottawa or the Ottawa Redblacks.

Fans will be physically distanced as much as possible, there will be regular hand-sanitizing stations throughout the arena and masks will be mandatory.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Doctor facing murder charge returns to court

Dr. Brian Nadler, who stands accused of first-degree murder in the death of a patient at the hospital in Hawkesbury, Ont. has another court appearance Tuesday.

Nadler was released on bail last Monday. He must live under a number of conditions, including remaining in Canada, not practicing medicine and not contacting any staff or patients at the Hawkesbury hospital where he worked.

The 35-year-old was charged earlier this year with murder in connection with the death of Albert Poidinger, of Pointe-Claire, Que. Poidinger, 89, was pronounced dead on March 25 at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

Nadler's lawyer said when he was charged that his client maintains his innocence.