COVID-19 assessment centres opening at the National Arts Centre and McNabb Community Centre

To better meet the needs of Ottawa’s downtown core, two COVID-19 assessment centres will open at the National Arts Centre (NAC) parking garage and McNabb Community Centre.

The current Drive-Thru Assessment Centre on Coventry Road will be relocated to City Hall and the NAC, which will begin operations on Thursday, November 19. The COVID-19 Drive-Thru Assessment Centre at the National Arts Centre will operate in the parking garage, providing shelter, comfort and warmth to Ottawa residents and staff over the winter months. To accommodate resources and staff transitioning to the site, the Coventry Drive-Thru Assessment Centre will formally close on Monday, November 16 at 6 p.m. To ensure residents in the downtown core, who do not have access to a car, can also access a COVID-19 test within walking distance, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at McNabb Community Centre will open the following week.

“The Ottawa Hospital is committed to supporting Ottawa’s collective efforts to ensure residents have access to convenient and accessible COVID-19 testing options,” said Cameron Love, President and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital. “Both the NAC and McNabb Assessment Centres exemplify the ongoing collaboration between Ottawa’s health care system and community partners, each with the unified goal to serve and safeguard our city.”

These sites are operated by The Ottawa Hospital in partnership with Ottawa Public Health, the City of Ottawa and the NAC.

“I am pleased we have found a new site at the NAC and another one at the McNabb Community Centre,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “I want to thank our partners who have worked hard to make these downtown testing sites a reality. These two locations provide needed access to testing for our residents.”

“The performing arts offer emotional respite and encouragement to people in good times and bad,” said Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre. “Supporting the health of our community aligns perfectly with the NAC’s approach to the challenges posed by this pandemic. We’re very proud to collaborate with Ottawa’s health care system during the coming winter months.”

As is the case everywhere in Ontario, it will be necessary to make an appointment before coming to an assessment centre for a COVID-19 test. Online booking will be made available through a website(link is external) prior to the appointment and for those who do not have internet access, reservations can be made by calling 613-737-8193.


COVID-19 Drive-Thru Assessment Centre at the National Arts Centre (with validation of registration taking place in the City Hall parking garage)

Location: City Hall Parking Garage, Elgin Street Entrance

NAC Parking Garage, Albert Street Entrance

Hours: Seven days a week, 10 am to 6 pm

Residents will first validate their registration at the City Hall parking garage (P1 level) at the time of their scheduled booking. They will complete their registration process in their vehicle. They will then drive the short distance to the National Arts Centre parking garage entrance on Albert Street to undergo testing. No parking fees will apply.

COVID-19 Assessment Centre at McNabb Community Centre

Location: 180 Percy Street

Hours: Monday to Friday, 10 am to 6 pm

Individuals who do not have phone or internet access may book a future appointment in-person at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at McNabb Community Centre.

Testing at Ottawa’s Community Health Centres:

Earlier in November, the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Somerset West Community Health Centre and Centretown Community Health Centre began providing COVID-19 testing to members of the downtown Ottawa community.

All three Community Health Centres (CHCs) serve and prioritize individuals who experience barriers accessing other COVID-19 testing sites in the city, whether that is due to language or accessibility barriers. The CHCs provide COVID-19 testing, health assessments and health education, and have a limited number of appointments available on a daily basis. Online booking is available through a website prior to the appointment day and individuals who do not have internet access may book an appointment over the phone by calling 613-789-1500 (Centretown CHC and Sandy Hill CHC) or 613-327-8145 (Somerset West CHC).

Engaging with people most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19:

Opening the NAC, McNabb Community Centre and three of Ottawa’s CHCs to COVID-19 testing is part of the Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce’s larger testing strategy to engage people most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa’s CHCs and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) have engaged in targeted outreach and community-based testing within some of the city’s hardest hit communities. OPH data guides the community testing response to individuals, families and communities experiencing higher rates of COVID-19. These communities are provided with local approaches to education, access to testing where and when it is needed, and additional supports while individuals and families remain in isolation.

This community-based model is consistent with what other large cities have already determined to be effective in reaching people most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, core elements of the model were designed with the community itself, and this locally coordinated and comprehensive approach:

  • Addresses accessibility through flexible, responsive and local testing options;
  • Enables coordinated outreach and education; and
  • Activates a network of providers to offer wrap-around care for those who must remain isolated.

Community testing response teams have been active in Ottawa’s shelters, congregate housing settings, and rooming houses where transmission of COVID-19 has occurred, as well as in neighborhoods experiencing higher rates of COVID-19. This work happens largely behind the scenes, but is nevertheless a critical component of the Taskforce’s ongoing testing strategy

For more information on City programs and services, visit or call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401). You can also connect with us through Facebook(link is external), Twitter(link is external) and Instagram(link is external).

Supporting our veterans and their families in our community

A year ago, Council appointed Deputy Mayor Matthew Luloff as City Council’s Liaison for Veteran and Military Issues. As a former member of the Canadian Forces having served in Afghanistan in 2008 with the 2nd Battallion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, it was clear that Councillor Luloff would be the perfect representative to solidify the City’s important relationship with the 23,000 active service members and more than 53,000 veterans and their families living in Ottawa.

Councillor Luloff will co-chair the newly created Veterans Task Force, responsible for developing a culture of supporting our veterans and their families in our community. The Task Force’s key objectives are the following:

  • Championing the cause of helping veterans living in our community who are experiencing challenges with their transition to civilian life;
  • Advocating for our veterans and their family, particularly those not supported by entities (i.e. VAC) to receive complete and appropriate health care, including case management services and working with the Province to ensure they have access to a family doctor on a priority basis;
  • Making housing more affordable and easier to secure for veterans and their family dealing with financial precarity. (In fact, the City is partnering with Multifaith Housing to build approximately 40 affordable housing units for Veterans at the Rockcliffe Air Base); and
  • Enhancing 2nd career opportunities for veterans and their family.

I look forward to working with Councillor Luloff, the Task Force and our strategic partners in the years ahead to deliver projects, facilitate access to resources and promote opportunities for those who have served, and continue to serve our great country. I firmly believe that the creation of this Task Force will help foster the inclusive environment that active members, veterans and their families truly deserve.

P.S. Every year on November 11, Canadians gather around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa and across the country to honour the men and women who have sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy today – some giving the ultimate sacrifice. This year, on the 75th anniversary of Armistice Day, the Royal Canadian Legion has planned a more intimate ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legion’s Poppy Campaign continues to run this year from October 30 to November 11. Visit to find poppies near you. Finally, as a small gesture to honour their sacrifice, veterans in uniform or wearing medals can ride transit November 5 to 11 for no charge. Transit will also be at no charge for everyone on Remembrance Day.

For more information on the Task Force and the Liaison’s role, please visit



Remembering Corporal Nathan Cirillo

Six years later, the family and loved ones of Cpl Nathan Cirillo remain in the hearts of the people in Ottawa, and across the country.

Today, and every day, we honour his service and sacrifice.

Thanks to Katerina Mertikas for this beautiful painting that I keep on display at City Hall.

Mayor Watson’s preliminary statement following the verdict in the trial of Ottawa Police Constable Daniel Montsion

Ottawa – Today is a challenging and emotional day for our City and for many of our residents.

The tragic incident involving Abdirahman Abdi, which happened over four years ago, has of course been especially heartbreaking for Mr. Abdi’s family and friends within the local Somali community. For those individuals who have experienced discrimination in our community, either systemic or overt, today may be even more difficult and painful.

Today, my primary thoughts go out to Mr. Abdi’s family and friends for their devastating loss. I would like to once again express my sincere condolences and regret for the death of their loved one.

I am also mindful of the patience they have shown as this case has moved through the legal process. I can only imagine that the lengthy proceedings have, in all likelihood, added to their grief.

I also want to take this opportunity to re-iterate my full confidence in our justice system. We are privileged in Canada to have a justice system that strives to render verdicts based on the facts and evidence before the courts – a system that upholds the rule of law.

Now, we are faced with the obligation of moving past this verdict and to reflect on the changes we need to continue to commit to – to allow us to move forward with a sense of common purpose.

The past year has been difficult for all of us, in many ways. In addition to the ongoing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also seen the issues of racism and the disproportionate impacts of systemic inequality come into sharp focus.

Events in both the United States and Canada have led to numerous rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-Black racism, protests against police use of force and a strengthened commitment to address racial injustice in cities across the world, including here in Ottawa.

It is clear that Ottawa is not, and cannot be, immune to participating in this important movement.

Many members of our community live with some form of discrimination, be it gender, mental health, race, age, poverty or sexual orientation – to name just a few.  The impact of this discrimination is the lived experience that remains persistent across our cities and within communities.

The complex functioning of systemic discrimination must be acknowledged by our institutions as well as by us as individuals if we are going to effectively address these issues head on.

It starts with stating uncomfortable truths. Indigenous Peoples, Black and other racialized populations in Ottawa have been, and continue to be, disproportionately the victims of violence, racist graffiti, racial slurs, excluded from activities and employment opportunities and discriminated against in the workplace.

This can only end with sustained, concrete action. I believe that municipalities have an important role to play in the fight against racism and discrimination. That is why I was pleased to lend my early support to the creation of the Anti-Racism Secretariat, under the leadership of Councillor Rawlson King, who has become the first Council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Relations Initiatives.

The secretariat will help ensure that an anti-racism lens is applied to city policies so that the services we provide are delivered to all residents equitably.

I am also pleased that Yusra Osman has been hired by the City as the first Anti-Racism Specialist to advance this work from within and across our city departments.  I have every confidence that Ms. Osman will advance the important work that has been underway through the Somali Community Table since 2016.

After more than three years of working together, the Somali Community Table has; initiated or completed all 19 actions identified on their original workplan; engaged 5735 residents and service providers; and, provided employment supports to 504 Somali residents.  As the Mayor of Ottawa, I remain committed to work tirelessly to make our city a better place to live for all residents.

Change is necessary in all our public service institutions. I am very aware that the criminal trial of Constable Daniel Montsion has been difficult for members of the Ottawa Police Service, including Chief Sloly.

I support the work of Chief Peter Sloly and Chair Diane Deans as they work to reform and bring about change within the Ottawa Police Service.

Chair Deans has outlined important ongoing changes underway within the Ottawa Police Service.

Over the last year on the Ottawa Police Services Board, I have had the privilege of supporting significant progress towards reform and countless new operational ways of supporting people in crisis including new sensitivity to people with mental health issues and a formal recognition of the impact race plays in these interactions.

I have witnessed a new openness and willingness to tackle these issues within the Ottawa Police Service and a directness and level of honesty to discuss these issues across police ranks.

I have also heard many stories of police officers who continue to go beyond the call of duty and show an evolving sensitivity towards these issues. I want to recognize efforts to date and appreciate the many tough decisions that have been made towards reform.  I believe these early steps will help prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.

If we remain committed and steadfast in our resolve, we can create an inclusive and responsive community that is welcoming for all residents. I ask that you consider today’s verdict as an opportunity to recommit to the work ahead and to align behind these goals.

Small Business Week in Ottawa

Proudly proclaiming October 18-24 as #SmallBusinessWeek in #Ottawa! Let's celebrate the foundation of our regional economy and support local and main street businesses on their road to recovery. What are your favourite local shops in Ottawa?
My thanks to the representatives from The Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT), The Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA), and Le Regroupement des gens d'affaires (RGA) for joining me to kick off this week.

Improving Road Safety in Ottawa

Students, parents and educators are all adjusting to the new reality of a very different and challenging school year. I want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of our teachers, administrators and the entire community, as we work together to ensure the safety of students and staff in schools across the city.
Aside from COVID-19, the number one topic of conversation these days is road safety. We must all be more vigilant when driving in residential neighbourhoods and near schools and parks.
In July, the City launched an Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) pilot project. It consists of four cameras in eight Community Safety Zones, two of which are stationary and two others that rotate periodically between six key locations in residential neighbourhoods and school zones. The data collected between July 13 and 31 revealed that our four cameras led to 10,771 tickets being issued for speeding in school zones. That’s more than 2,500 tickets per camera in just over two weeks – and the real concern is the highest speed recorded during this period, with a motorist driving at 89 kilometres per hour on Meadowlands near St. Gregory Elementary School.
In addition to the ASE pilot project, the City has equipped nearly 60 intersections with red-light cameras to reduce aggressive driving behaviours, with another 14 cameras being installed by the end of the year. Studies have shown that dangerous red light running can decrease by as much as 42 percent within a few months of a camera being installed. I am confident that we will see some further reductions in dangerous driving as we expand these initiatives across Ottawa.
It is important to note that the revenue generated by these road safety initiatives will be re-invested in community safety programs with our partners at Safer Roads Ottawa.
I hope this shines a light on how seriously we have to take road safety across our city, and particularly in school zones – and how essential photo-radar and red-light cameras will be in addressing some of this dangerous behaviour.

City digs into Stage 2 LRT construction

Ottawa – Mayor Jim Watson joined The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, representing the Government of Canada, and Jeremy Roberts, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean, from the Government of Ontario to break ground today on the Stage 2 LRT tunnel that will run under the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Byron Linear Park.

The Parkway tunnel will be built using a cut and cover construction method. To prepare for tunnel construction, traffic on the parkway has been shifted, and underground utilities are being relocated. Excavation will start at the surface and support walls will be installed as the tunnel gets deeper.

East-West Connectors (EWC), the contractor building the Stage 2 east and west O-Train extensions, will build permanent tunnel infrastructure prior to backfilling to surface level. Work will be carried out in stages to minimize impacts on pedestrians, cyclists, and local traffic. When construction is complete, Byron Linear Park will be enhanced to include more trees, less pavement, more public art, and additional plaza space for local events.

The Parkway tunnel will be three kilometres long and extend from Dominion Station to north of Lincoln Fields Station, travelling underneath the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Byron Linear Park. It will be one of two cut and cover tunnels in the Stage 2 O-Train West Extension project. The second will be the 270 metre Connaught tunnel that will link Lincoln Fields Station with Queensview Station, travelling underneath Connaught Avenue.

The Stage 2 West Extension will add 15 kilometres of rail and 11 new stations to extend O-Train Line 1, the Confederation Line, from Tunney’s Pasture to Lincoln Fields where it will split, travelling south to Baseline Station and west to Moodie Drive. There will also be a light maintenance and storage facility located at Moodie Drive. The project is expected to be complete in 2025.

The west extension is one of three projects that make up Stage 2 LRT. Line 1 is also being extended east from Blair Station to Trim Road in Orléans and O-Train Line 2, the Trillium Line, is being extended south from Greenboro Station to Limebank Road in Riverside South, with a link to the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.

The Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project is a $4.66 billion project that is jointly funded by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Ottawa.

Stage 2 LRT will get you home faster, expanding the reliability, accessibility and comfort of light rail transit. Using world class vehicles with low-floor seating and other accessibility features, and stations supporting transit-oriented development, Stage 2 will transform commuting in Ottawa. It will connect communities, including Ottawa’s major employment centres, post-secondary institutions, shopping and recreation destinations, and arts and culture hotpots. Stage 2 will relieve congestion, reducing approximately one sixth of Ottawa’s total vehicle kilometres travelled and save commuters time and money.

Stage 2 supports healthy commuting, gives residents more options for how they commute, including biking to work. Ottawa is integrating the city’s pathway network with all light rail developments in support of mixed-mode commuting.


"The start of tunneling on the next phase of Ottawa's LRT shows that, in the face of adversity, we're continuing to build up important public transit that people rely on every day. 77% of Ottawans will live within 5 km of the LRT, and Stage 2 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 110,000 tonnes and help get cars off the roads. Canada's infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country and builds stronger communities."

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

“The start of construction on the west tunnel marks another exciting step forward in delivering on this project that will transform Ottawa's public transit network and the way people get around this city. Our government is providing up to $1.208 billion for Stage 2 of this Light Rail Transit project to make commutes shorter, relieve congestion and better connect the City of Ottawa.”

Jeremy Roberts, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean

“Stage 2 LRT will connect our communities, major employment centres, post-secondary institutions, shopping and recreation destinations, and arts and culture hotpots. It’s good news for our environment, supports healthy commuting, and gives residents more options on how they get around the city.”

Jim Watson, Mayor, City of Ottawa

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE PROVINCE: New Public Health Measures Implemented Provincewide to Keep Ontarians Safe

Government Reinforcing the Importance of Following Public Health Advice to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19
TORONTO — In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and other health experts, the Ontario government has amended order O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, to tighten public health measures in response to the recent rise in cases of COVID-19.
Over the past five weeks, Ontario has experienced an increase in the rate of new COVID-19 cases. Private social gatherings continue to be a significant source of transmission in many local communities, along with outbreak clusters in restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, including strip clubs, with most cases in the 20-39 age group. To ensure the continued health and safety of Ontarians, reduce the risk of transmission, and limit future outbreaks of COVID-19, the amended order will apply province-wide effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday September 26 and will:
Apply additional measures and restrictions to restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments (including nightclubs) by prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m., and prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on the premises after 12:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. (including employees), and requiring establishments to close by 12:00 a.m. and remain closed until 5:00 a.m. except for takeout or delivery;
Close all strip clubs across the province; and
Require businesses or organizations to comply with any advice, recommendations, and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening for COVID-19, including screening individuals who wish to enter their premises.
"Last week our government took immediate action to respond to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, by setting new limits for certain social gatherings and organized public events across Ontario. As the number of cases have continued to rise, it is evident t hat despite the tremendous efforts of Ontarians further action is required to prevent the spread of the virus," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "On the advice of Ontario's public health officials, we are moving forward with these measures to help keep Ontarians safe by limiting the potential for exposure in locations where the current risk of transmission is higher, and to avoid future lockdowns. Protecting the health and wellbeing of Ontarians will always remain our top priority."
In addition, the province will work with the municipal sector and other partners to encourage increased enforcement of existing businesses, facilities, workplaces, etc. to comply with all public health and workplace safety measures and restrictions in the Stage 3 regulation.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to advise if public health measures need to be further tightened.
On September 22, the government began releasing details on its comprehensive plan to prepare the health system for a second wave of COVID-19. The plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, has so far committed to:
Investing almost $70 million to purchase flu vaccines to deliver a robust and expanded campaign this year, including ordering 5.1 million flu vaccine doses in partnership with the federal government and other provinces and territories, 700,000 more than was approximately used last year. This includes 1.3 million high-dose vaccines for Ontario seniors, especially those with pre-existing health conditions;
Starting on September 25, you can get tested for COVID-19 at select pharmacies if you are not showing symptoms and eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care. Beginning next week testing will be expanded to pharmacies in southwestern Ontario including London, Brantford, Kitchener-Waterloo, and W indsor.
Investing $1.07 billion to enhance and expand COVID-19 testing and case and contact management in order to quickly identify and contain new cases. This includes opening more testing locations, expanding specimen collection methods for COVID-19 testing, increasing testing capacity and hiring additional contact tracing staff. Health behaviour surveillance will also be conducted across the province to track adherence to and improve communication of the importance of following public health measures.
Investing $30 million to build on the province's efforts to rapidly identify and contain any COVID-19 outbreaks, including deploying hospital infection prevention and control (IPAC) resources to provide ongoing support to long-term care homes, and developing a COVID-19 surveillance strategy to monitor the disease and detect cases and outbreaks in a timely manner.
It remains critically important for everyone to continue following public health advice in or der to stop the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our communities This includes: staying home when ill or keeping your child home from school when ill, even with mild symptoms; practising physical distancing with those outside your household or social circle or at gatherings; protecting your circle; wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or where it is mandatory to do so; washing your hands frequently and thoroughly; and adhering to gathering limits and rules.
For additional protection, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government has extended orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) to October 22, 2020. Orders in effect under the ROA will allow the government to maintain the flexibility it needs to address the ongoing and emerging risks as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 24, 2020 the ROA came into force to ensure important measures remained in place after the provincial declared emergency came to an end. Under the ROA, orders can be extended for up to 30 days at a time. The government will continue to review all orders continued under the ROA and will report on order extensions to the Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight.
Over 180 guidance resources are available to businesses to help them safely reopen and keep customers and workers safe.
Testing is available at any of the province’s 151 assessment centres currently open. To find your closest assessment centre, please visit
For additional protection, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

Supporting small businesses through the fall

This summer in the nation’s capital has been much different than in years past – one that has presented Ottawans with the most significant challenges and setbacks in a generation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the vast majority of major events have been cancelled, many residents have found creative ways to enjoy the outdoors and rediscover the spectacular sights in the region. The new normal has also given many an opportunity to relax, recharge and reconnect with loved ones.

Now, as our youth enroll in online courses or return to classrooms across the city, and our workforce braces for a busy fall, we must remember that the virus is still very much present in our community. I want to once again thank the caring residents who have worked so hard to plank the curve by respecting public health guidelines. The actions we all take will change the impact that this pandemic has on our city. Let’s continue to protect ourselves and our neighbours by practicing physical distancing, wearing masks, washing our hands frequently and finding safe alternatives to large group activities.

While we are all focused on limiting the spread of the virus, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind residents that our local businesses are still fighting each and every day to remain open, providing goods and services that our community needs. And as the winter weather quickly approaches, restaurants will soon have to close their patios, and businesses will have to find new ways to generate revenue. It is vital that we continue to support these local entrepreneurs through these difficult times. If possible, head to your neighbourhood deli for a sandwich, buy a book by an Ottawa author, or purchase a gift for a friend from a local artisan.

There is no doubt that this has been a stressful period for everyone in our city and across the globe. However, with every day that passes, we are one step closer to a vaccine. Let’s be patient, vigilant and hopeful that our collective actions will result in a safe and prosperous future for all.
The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve very quickly. Please refer to to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

Supporting Schools During COVID-19 - Update

As the reopening of schools within our region continues, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) continues to collaborate with local school boards and organizations to implement provincial standards and guidance. Alongside our school board partners, OPH is addressing ongoing questions and concerns of families, school staff and students regarding COVID-19, ensuring we provide the most current information possible.
Residents of Ottawa must continue to do their part to keep transmission in the community low to help stop COVID-19 from entering schools in the first place.
OPH continues to monitor and assess local epidemiology related to the burden of people diagnosed with COVID-19, transmission risks in the local community, and absenteeism in schools. Decisions will be made based on the most recent data available at the time.
COVID-19 School Support Team (CSST)
OPH has established a COVID-19 School Support Team (CSST) consisting of experienced staff and 45 additional public health nurses (PHN) to be trained on the key areas of focus to support schools. The PHNs are working with schools both virtually and regularly in the school setting to help address questions from the school community. PHNs are providing schools with a checklist to ensure their plans and practices are implemented in such a way to meet our expectations of infection prevention and control. As OPH liaisons, our nurses will be available to the principals and will be present regularly in the schools. PHNs will also work to support Ottawa’s private schools and Ottawa’s 4 largest post-secondary institutions (University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College, La Cite Collegiale).
Neighbourhood Cluster Response Team (NCRT)
OPH has also established a Neighbourhood Cluster Response Team (NCRT) who, working with OPH’s epidemiology team, will identify neighbourhoods with clusters of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and engage in rapid, as well as sustained response to neighbourhood and community clusters. The team will investigate and complete chart reviews to determine common factors, barriers and inequities that are potentially a root cause of greater spread of COVID-19. Community clusters may exacerbate health inequities, and may be caused by socio-economic disadvantages due to a myriad of challenges, such as accessing health care. Clusters are more likely to occur and more difficult to control in settings where individuals are unable to take personal protective measures (e.g.: physical distancing) and where there are healthcare access barriers due to language, racialization, poverty and lack of trust in authority/government or alternatively lack of confidence that institutions are not responsive to their concerns and realities. Cluster response may require the involvement of various community partners and very importantly, in circumstances where community clusters coincide with sites with large proportions of immigrants and racialized populations, cluster response requires an authentic community engagement with response strategies defined with the input of knowledgeable and well-connected community representatives.
The NCRT includes staff who have experience as community developers who can work with community partners to develop a plan to help reduce the spread. This team’s focus is to work with the community, build relationships with partners and community members and, thereby, increase the effectiveness of COVID-19 precautions and interventions. This team will also work closely with targeted partners, like the
Newcomer Health Centre Navigators, the Human Needs Task Force, and Community Social Services, to facilitate better access to solutions and reduce barriers. Additionally, OPH has established a small pool of resource to engage and reimburse local community leaders as OPH Ambassadors who may be best suited to interpret or contextualize key messages and interventions, to increase their success.
The NCRT will work with and support PHNs assigned to schools within these neighbourhoods. Working with community stakeholders and partners, including the Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee (CCRC), the PHNs in these neighbourhoods will engage and support additional prevention and health promotion in these communities.

Outbreak Management
On August 26, the Province released guidance on school outbreak management outlining responsibilities for Public Health Units (PHU), the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ontario Health, Public Health Ontario (PHO), Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD), the Ministry of Education (EDU) and School Administrators and Boards of Education. The guidance also supports child care centers within schools.
According to the provincial guidelines, an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed people diagnosed with COVID-19 in students and/or staff (or other visitors) in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one person diagnosed with COVID-19 could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before/after school care).
Outbreaks will be declared over when at least 14 days has passed with no evidence of ongoing transmission that could reasonably be related to exposures in the school; and no further ill individuals associated with the initial exposed cohorts have tests pending.
As per provincial guidance, OPH is responsible for:
• Investigating clusters of people diagnosed with COVID-19 associated with school locations, (e.g. school transportation, in-person attendance or work at a physical school location, before/after school programs located at a school, or other facilities shared with the school).
• Determining if an outbreak exists, declaring an outbreak, and declaring when the outbreak is over.
• Providing guidance and recommendations to the school on outbreak control measures in conjunction with advice provided by EDU and MOH.
• Providing recommendations on cohort(s) isolation, and the potential need for full or partial school dismissal based on the scope of an outbreak.
• Providing recommendations on who to test, and when to be tested in alignment with the province’s broader testing strategy; where recommended, facilitate a coordinated approach to testing, in collaboration with Ontario Health, including provision of an investigation or outbreak number.
• Conducting an on-site investigation as part of the outbreak examination, where necessary, in coordination with the school and board of education (BOE), and other relevant stakeholders (e.g., Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD).
• Issuing orders by the medical officer of health or their designate under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), if necessary.
• Promoting actions that will assist with keeping COVID-19 transmission in the community low at the community level is key to preventing introduction of the virus into schools. Early detection and responding to outbreak clusters in schools is vital to controlling the transmission of the virus in the community. OPH will follow provincial standards and provide infection prevention and control advice to schools for both in-school and transportation scenarios.

As per normal procedure, when a person diagnosed with COVID-19 is identified, Ottawa Public Health will conduct contact tracing, identify close contacts, and communicate with those directly impacted.
As per the provincial guidance on school outbreak management, Ontario Health is responsible for coordinating local planning among health system partners for testing to ensure the availability of resources, in addition to:
• Deploying testing resources and modalities to meet the testing needs identified by the Public Health Unit (PHU).
• Collaborating with PHUs, school boards and schools to monitor testing demands and access.
• Work with testing centres to optimize sample collection and distribution to reduce turnaround times.
Together the Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee (CCRC) and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) are implementing the Ontario Ministry of Health’s policies on testing priorities across Ottawa.
The CCRC continues to staff, operate and manage the Assessment Centre at Brewer Park Arena, the Assessment Centre at the RTGC parking lot on Coventry Road by appointment, and the two (2) COVID-19 Care Clinics (Moodie and Heron locations) through local hospitals. Questions related to the provincial testing strategy can be submitted to the Province through an online form.
Ongoing Work
OPH continues to meet regularly with school boards to assess, review and provide feedback on reopening plans. A variety of school-focused scenarios have been planned and practiced through tabletop exercises. These exercises helped all stakeholders identify needs and gaps that exist to successfully respond to common scenarios that may occur at a school. OPH staff have walked through initial scenarios, with senior leadership at school boards, of symptomatic individual at school and confirmed person diagnosed with COVID-19 at a school; with more scenarios and tabletop exercises to be completed at the superintendent and CSST nurse level.
OPH has met with and reviewed the reopening plans for Ottawa’s four largest post-secondary institutions (uOttawa, Carleton University, La Cite Collegial, and Algonquin College).
OPH continues to advise schools and boards of education (BOE) on COVID-19 prevention and preparedness for managing people diagnosed with COVID-19, contacts and outbreaks, in conjunction with advice provided through the EDU and MOH.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a rise in stigma and prejudice against those who have the virus, people who are thought to be carriers of the virus based on appearance, and people who are thought to be from areas where the COVID-19 virus originated.
This increased stigma can result in people not wanting to seek testing for COVID-19 or health care if they need it. It can also result in people not wanting to share information about their contacts, and feeling isolated, rejected or even facing violence.
OPH staff are being offered training to ensure our communications work to reduce and dispel stigma regarding COVID-19.
Next Steps
OPH continues to work closely with community stakeholders, along with partners like CHEO, local health teams and community pediatricians, to make the return to school as safe as possible, balancing the risk of COVID-19 transmission with reducing other harms to the well-being of students, families and staff.
Resources for students, families and school boards regarding COVID-19 and the return to school will be updated as new information becomes available.