Friday marked roughly 100 days since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic – a first since the organization’s inception in 1948. On the same day, March 11, Ottawa Public Health confirmed the presence of COVID-19 in the community. And on March 17, Premier Doug Ford declared a State of Emergency in the Province of Ontario.
In the blink of an eye, the people of Ottawa were presented with one of the most significant challenges in a generation. Life as we knew it changed as cities, towns and villages across Canada shut down. Businesses closed their doors, causing an unprecedented economic downturn. Residents were confined to their homes without knowing what the future held.
It was clear that the city needed to act quickly to protect residents from COVID-19. In response, staff and resources were quickly redeployed to provide for our community’s critical needs. We expanded online and remote services to continue serving our residents while much of the city’s workforce continued to deliver services in the field or from home.
The response to the pandemic in our nation’s capital has been tremendous due in large part to the phenomenal work of the staff at Ottawa Public Health and our local health partners who have been working around the clock to keep our residents safe.
In a short period of time, the Champlain Health Region Incident Command (CHRIC), in collaboration with OPH, opened an assessment centre that has so far seen more than 30,000 people present for testing. Shortly thereafter, two care clinics were opened to take some of the pressure off emergency rooms and family medicine clinics.
Of course, our ability to flatten the curve ultimately rests in your hands, Ottawa, and you have risen to the challenge. Since the people of our city have been so patient and respectful of public health guidelines, the province has given Ottawa the green light to move to Stage 2 of the provincial reopening plan. This has allowed us to gradually reopen the local economy and resume some of our municipal programs. Ottawa was the largest municipality in Ontario to be allowed to move to Stage 2 of reopening. Your efforts to flatten the curve are the reason we made it here.
Stage 2 has allowed many small businesses, like restaurant patios and barbershops, to serve patrons once again. New guidelines and measures have been put into place to ensure the safety of all employees and clients.
Supporting our local businesses has been a significant priority for the city. The health of our economy and of our community goes hand in hand. To support businesses, we created an Economic Partners Task Force to provide us with “on the ground” feedback from the business community as the pandemic evolved. The city has also put in place a property tax deferral program and created a Business Reopening Toolkit that provides advice and guidance on how to safely reopen.
While we have moved one step closer to a new normal, we need to remind the residents of Ottawa that COVID-19 has not gone away – the virus is still present in our community and we need to be COVIDwise. It is vital that as we continue to gradually reopen we remember what got us to this point.
We must all remain vigilant and continue to follow public health guidelines: staying at home when sick; practicing physical distancing; wearing cloth masks on public transit and when physical distancing is not possible; and washing your hands frequently.
And tens of thousands of residents who are not yet back at work need our support so that we can move on to the next phase of reopening as safely as possible.
There is no doubt that these past 100 days have been some of the most challenging times for our city. Since Day 1, we’ve witnessed incredible acts of kindness, such as neighbours picking up groceries for their sick or elderly neighbours, people sewing hundreds of cloth masks for those in need or a young girl donating all the savings in her piggy bank to her local food cupboard. Throughout these 100 days, we’ve been constantly reminded of the generosity and kindness of the people of Ottawa.
It has been 100 days. To some, this may already feel like too many. Rest assured, if we continue to support each other and work together to combat this pandemic, the people of Ottawa will come out of it stronger than ever.

Photo attributed to Postmedia.