As Ottawa prepares to move into the new "Orange-Restrict" zone on Ontario's tiered shutdown system, the medical officer of health is encouraging everyone to act in a "safer way" to help keep COVID-19 levels down.
On Saturday, indoor dining can resume at bars and restaurants in Ottawa, while gyms, fitness centres, cinemas and other facilities can reopen.
Under the "Orange-Restrict" zone, restaurants and bars will have a 50 person indoor capacity limit, a maximum of four people may be seated together and last call for alcohol is 9 p.m.
"The measures outlined in the provincial framework will allow us to maintain a balance that will see us through this pandemic," said Dr. Vera Etches in a statement Friday afternoon.
"It’s a marathon, not a hurdle race. It’s not about getting over the next hump, but about finding sustainable ways to balance life while keeping COVID-19 levels low in the community.
Dr. Etches adds that while the government regulations are designed to protect people, "It is still up to everyone across all age groups and in every neighbourhood to act in a safer way when we go about our daily lives so we can keep the levels of COVID-19 down."
Ottawa was moved into a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10, closing indoor dining at restaurants, gyms, fitness centres and cinemas for at least 28 days.
With the reopening of businesses this weekend, Dr. Etches says "we have to keep our guard up to keep COVID-19 levels down."
"With indoor dining returning and gyms, cinemas and other facilities reopening, people can get back to work. We will also be able to support more local businesses and participate in activities that make us feel better and help us feel more connected," said Dr. Etches. "Similar to how schools are able to be open with precautions in place, with the current level of COVID-19 in the community, businesses can open with proper precautions in place."
Dr. Etches notes all Ottawa residents must keep the balance "with caution and with care" so COVID-19 levels stay down.
The medical officer of health says if you go out to dinner or a movie, "you just need to stick with those in your household and always wear a mask when you're not eating or drinking."
If you are connecting in-person with a friend or loved one outside your bubble, Dr. Etches says always maintain a physical distance of at least two metres, wear a mask and stay outdoors if possible.
"Choose not to see people from outside your household in settings that don’t allow a physical distance of at least two metres, for example at a restaurant or in small rooms where you cannot keep two metres apart.
Premier praises Ottawa for COVID-19 actions
During an announcement at the Ottawa Hospital on Friday, Premier Doug Ford praised Ottawa residents for their actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
"A few weeks ago, when we first saw the second wave that hit Ottawa, we worked closely with Mayor (Jim) Watson, Dr. Etches and her team to quickly bring in targeted action to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Ford.
"And thanks to that early and necessary action, we're now seeing real improvements."
Ford noted that new cases are trending down.