Message to New and Returning Post-Secondary Students from Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health

Dear new and returning students,
On behalf of Ottawa Public Health (OPH), welcome to what we all know is going to be a unique school experience. COVID-19 has required some significant shifts in the way we live our lives, and we need to continue to rely on the collective efforts of our neighbours, partners, families, roommates and friends to keep community transmission low here in Ottawa. Everyone needs to do their part.
Over the last number of months, the Ottawa community has worked together to prioritize the safety and well-being of others. For those of you who have been part of these efforts – thank you for your dedication and adherence to public health guidelines. OPH is proud to be part of such an engaged and responsible community. For those who are new or returning to Ottawa, whether this is your first experience away from home or another year on your academic journey, the expectation is that you join our efforts to control the spread of the virus. We are in this together!
Please note that OPH provides the most up-to date information on a special section of our website –, and through our social media channels. OPH continues to encourage all residents to be COVIDWise and practice the following precautions:
W– Wear a mask or face covering where required or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
I– Isolate yourself from others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms).
S– Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household.
E– Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly and use sanitizer especially before touching your face.
As you get settled into your new environment and establish your new routine, OPH would like to ensure you’re aware of the following information that is relevant to student life in Ottawa:
Mandatory Mask Bylaw in effect
There is a Mandatory Mask Bylaw in effect for enclosed public spaces in Ottawa. This Bylaw applies to public transportation, restaurants, bars, stores, and other enclosed public spaces, with exemptions. The bylaw also extends to the common and shared areas of multi-unit dwellings, including residence and apartment buildings, as well as taxis and ride shares. Failure to adhere to the provisions set out in the Mandatory Mask Bylaw can result in tickets being issued. OPH has been working with your school’s administration to ensure preparedness for the Fall semester. As mandatory masking policies have been implemented for all students on campus, please be sure to review your school’s policy prior to arriving on site.

OPH also wants to remind you that not everyone can safely wear a mask, and that we should all continue to be COVIDKind and show compassion and understanding towards individuals who are exempt from wearing a mask due to medical reasons.
For more information about masks, please visit and consult your institution’s mask policy.
Though this is normally a celebratory time of year for students to reconnect and make new friends, you must continue to be SocialWise to limit your close contacts: keep gathering numbers as small as possible, ensure physical distancing, meet outside rather than inside, wear masks, wash your hands often and stay home if you are ill. Both on and off campus, gathering limits remain in place. While indoor gatherings over 50 people, and outdoor gatherings over 100 people are not permitted, much smaller groups, with physical distancing measures in place, are preferred. There is zero tolerance and Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services are actively enforcing these gathering limits, with fines being issued for non-compliance. OPH encourages you to limit the number of people in your social circle to reduce the risk of further transmission.
Check out OPH’s tips for how to party more safely while being COVIDWise.
Increase in Cases
Recently, Ottawa has experienced a concerning increase in the number of persons being diagnosed with COVID-19. These results have been linked to indoor gatherings (e.g. parties) and behaviours that have demonstrated a relaxation of COVID-19 precautions. The 20 to 29 age group now has the highest number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. It is important that you follow the COVIDWise precautions to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus. People do not always feel sick when they have the COVID-19 virus.
The criteria and locations for when and where you can get tested for COVID-19, are available on the OPH website.
What happens when someone tests positive?
Students who test positive for COVID-19, or who are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:
a) Are required to self-isolate.
b) Will be contacted by an OPH case manager for next steps and to answer your questions.
International Students
Ottawa is pleased to welcome students from all over the world. Students who are new or returning to Ottawa and arriving from international destinations are required to adhere to the 14-day isolation period set-out by the federal Quarantine Act. For more information, consult the supports available through your institution for international students.

Multilingual Resources
OPH has developed multilingual resources for diverse communities , as well as resources for First Nations, Inuit and Métis community members.
Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Services
OPH continues to offer sexual health services at our 179 Clarence Street location. As well, harm reduction services (including supervised consumption services) are also offered at this location. For information about opioids and overdoses, please visit
Mental Health
We are all in this together. COVID-19 has understandably caused a lot of anxiety and apprehension for many people. It is ok not to be ok. For mental health supports, please visit OPH’s Mental Health and COVID-19 page as well as your institution’s students support services.
Be Prepared
Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. The campus where you study has an emergency plan; however, you play a big role in ensuring your own safety! Be prepared: keep extra masks handy, write down important contact numbers, consider storing non-perishable food, extra water and basic essentials. In an emergency, such as a power failure, and if you had to isolate for 14 days, these would be essential.
We understand the pandemic will present unique challenges specific to your academic and social experience at university and college. We thank you for your continued efforts in taking the necessary precautions to minimize transmission of the virus and protect the whole community by being COVIDWise.
Have a great year!
Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa Public Health Update - Use of Facesmasks in Public Indoor Spaces

The best thing you can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is staying at home if you are sick, washing your hands regularly with soap and water and maintaining a physical distance of two metres or six feet from others.
Effective, July 7, 2020 as of 12:01 am Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health for Ottawa Public Health has instructed every Operator of an Enclosed Public Space within the City of Ottawa to:
Adopt a policy to ensure that no member of the public is permitted to enter or remain in the public areas of the Enclosed Public Space unless he or she is wearing a mask in a manner that covers their nose, mouth and chin.
Those exempt from wearing a mask are:
Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
Individuals with medical conditions rendering them unable to safely wear a mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties;
Individuals who are unable to apply or remove a mask without assistance, including those who are accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or who have protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended;
A person who is employed by or is an agent of the Operator of an Enclosed Public Space and:
is in an area of the premises that is not designated for public access, or
is within or behind a physical barrier (e.g., Plexiglass).
Ensure the availability of alcohol-based hand rub at all entrances and exits for the use of all persons entering or exiting the establishment.
Please see the full Instruction Letter to Businesses and Operators for more detailed information.
Since June 15, all OC Transpo customers have been required to wear a mask or face covering while using their services, but some exceptions apply. For more information, visit
How do masks or face covering work?
Wearing a mask or face covering helps to trap COVID-19 and protects people who are around you. Since some people who are infected with COVID-19 may have the virus and not know it, whenever people are going out and might come into close contact with other people they should wear a mask or face covering. When other people wear a mask or face covering they are helping to protect you as well.
Wearing a mask or face covering should not replace other protective measures including physical distancing, hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.
What type of mask or face covering should I wear?
There are many types of masks or face covering available including non-medical cloth masks that can be washed and reused, disposable masks that can only be worn once and medical masks such as N95 respirators that should be reserved for front-line health care workers.
Masks or Face Coverings
When buying or making a mask or face covering you should look for masks or face coverings that are made with:
Two or three layers of tightly woven but breathable cloth such as cotton,flannel or quilting cotton
No seams over the mouth and nose through which air may leak
Horizontal pleats to help fit a variety of faces
Disposable non-medical face masks
Disposable non-medical face masks may also be worn. These masks are single use masks and should be put in the garbage after use.
Medical Masks
Like many countries, Canada continues to face a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment for health care workers. To preserve supplies for healthcare workers medical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for specific high-risk settings and are not recommended for lower-risk day-to-day activities like when you are in a grocery store or while taking public transportation. N95 respirators with valves, which let air out more easily when you breathe out, should never be used when the intent is to protect others from the virus you may be shedding because they will not trap the virus. For health care workers looking for information on personal protective equipment, please refer to our section on Infection Prevention and Control.

My comments on the recent events of anti-black racism that transpired in the United States

I would like to provide some comments on the tragic events that have transpired in the US.

The killing of George Floyd has left many Ottawa residents and Canadians shaken, angry, hurt and disgusted.

Watching his senseless killing is difficult to bear for many as it was for me.

Watching George Floyd say “I CAN’T BREATHE” and pleading for his mother’s help - as life drained from his body - is more that most of us can tolerate.
Following his senseless death, violence has erupted across the United States.

The tens of thousands of protestors we are seeing in the streets across the US, here in Canada and around the world, are speaking up and standing in solidarity - and we must all stand in solidarity.

And while the death of Mr. Floyd has focused most attention on the United States, we know that as a country, we are not immune to racism, or racist behavior, and we are far from perfect.

Racism is present in our midst.

And we must continue to stamp it out whenever it rears its ugly head, whether it’s in the community, at a police station, at City Hall or anywhere else.

I am grateful that we live in a country where we have the courage to name things for what they are.

And make no mistake, eradicating racism is a duty that belongs to each and every one of us.

It is our individual obligation as residents and citizens of our City, Province and Country to denounce racism each and every time we witness it.

Whether the demonstration of racism appears insignificant or large – we must have the courage to stand up and say that we will not tolerate any form of racism in our city and in our country.

And that includes standing up for our fellow residents of Asian descent who are being subjected to racist and hurtful taunts because of the absurd notion that they somehow bear responsibility for the COVID19 pandemic.

Because racism can only survive and spread if it has oxygen.

The more we refuse to give it oxygen, the less it has room to breathe and expand.

We also have to continue to do everything in our power to build a strong, prosperous and inclusive community.

That includes housing and food security, jobs and economic security.

We must do everything in our power so that all Ottawa residents, whether they have been here for 50 days or 50 years, feel that this City is their home, and they feel welcomed and valued in this house.

And even though the COVID 19 pandemic has made that challenge even more daunting, I believe that we are - as a city, province and country – up to the task.

With that being said, I plan to take part in the “No Peace Until Justice” march at the U.S. Embassy on Sussex with members of the community on Friday, June 5 at 3:00pm.

While I know this is an important event, and I am encouraged by the positivity surrounding this particular gathering, we MUST remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is still present in our community.

If we do not respect the public health guidelines, we may set ourselves back weeks, or even months.

So, for all those who plan to attend: please wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands as soon as you get the chance to do so.
On June 2, I asked members of FEDCO to continue to work together to demonstrate our collective willingness to strengthen the fight against racism in our City.

I was pleased that the motion was carried unanimously at the committee meeting.

This motion allows us to build on that plan that we approved last year.

I am pleased that Councillor Rawlson King has accepted my proposal to take on the role of Council Liaison for Anti-Racism issues and Ethnocultural Relations, subject to Council’s approval at the June 10 meeting.

Members of Council and the public will recall that Councillor King proposed that an Anti-Racism Secretariat be created at the City of Ottawa in 2019, and I was proud to work with him and my Council colleagues to include this measure in the 2020 budget.

Councillor King has been approached by numerous groups and individuals who wish to engage with him on the City’s various anti-racism initiatives.

This motion recognizes Councillor King in a formal leadership role on behalf of Ottawa City Council, similar to that played by Councillors Theresa Kavanagh on gender equity issues, Matt Luloff on Veterans’ issues, and Catherine McKenney on Housing and Homelessness.
Working together, we can build a more inclusive city.

Cities need federal support to partner in economic recovery efforts

We’re almost three months into the global COVID-19 pandemic and the depth of this crisis is greater in its economic scope and impact than most of us can remember.
COVID-19 has created, for cities, the greatest financial challenge we’ve had to face in recent history.
Municipalities across Canada are working around the clock to provide a broad range of essential services – social services for our most vulnerable residents, public transit, fire, paramedic and police services, support for local economic development, clean drinking water, solid waste collection and recycling, and much more.
Revenues are plummeting as costs rise across the board.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and under a state of emergency, the City of Ottawa faces net losses of $66 million by June, $123 million by September, and $186 million come December. This excludes financial impacts to the Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Public Health, and the Ottawa Public Library.
Both the Government of Canada and provincial governments have boosted spending by hundreds of billions of dollars to see us through this crisis – an effort that is backstopped by a much greater fiscal capacity and the broader revenue base that typically includes sales and personal taxation.
But Canadian municipalities are on much shakier ground – given that our ability to generate revenue is largely based on property taxation. Cities are facing catastrophic financial losses due to deferred property taxes, collapsing transit ridership and revenue, and the rapidly escalating cost of keeping our most vulnerable residents as safe as possible under tremendously challenging circumstances.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, local MP and Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna, and local area MPs have been seen by myself and other Canadian mayors as strong champions of the municipal agenda.
Building on this strong support, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is calling on the Government of Canada to commit to emergency operating funding of $10 billion in a one-time transfer for local governments to use as needed. Given the uneven fiscal capacity of provinces, we are seeking a federal commitment that is NOT contingent on matching provincial funds.
This would allow cities, towns and villages across the country to continue keeping residents safe and supported during this fight against COVID-19. And we need it sooner than later.
Later this morning, along with Councillor Tim Tierney, the City of Ottawa’s representative on the FCM Board of Directors, I will be moving a motion at Council to support the FCM and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) in lobbying the federal and provincial governments for this crucial one-time investment in our city – and in municipalities across the country.
Cities cannot afford to cancel or delay major capital projects or slash spending on essential municipal services while we focus our efforts on supporting the millions of Canadians who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. and unlike the provincial and federal governments, municipalities are not allowed under law to run a deficit.
Since the pandemic was declared, our provincial and federal governments have done a tremendous job of keeping us safe, and we are working closely with them to finally start to prudently reopen the economy.
Wisely, our provincial and federal governments have chosen to not cut services or employment levels, because doing so would undermine our collective efforts to restart our struggling economy and labour markets.
Cities play a vital role in economic growth, and municipalities need support to help drive local economic recovery efforts.
A federal investment in our cities now will ensure that the three levels of government can continue to work in partnership on getting Canada back up and running as quickly as possible.
Without the proposed investment in our cities, we face the daunting prospect of having to cut essential municipal services when our residents need them most, while imposing years of unacceptably high property tax increases while we try to rebuild our economy and regain the millions of jobs lost during COVID-19.
To the people of Ottawa – I offer my sincere thanks on behalf of all members of Council – for continuing to do your part in planking the curve by following public health guidelines. Through our individual behaviour, we are changing the course of this pandemic in our city and setting the stage for a faster recovery.
We will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever, if people and governments continue to work together.

City releases toolkit to help businesses reopen safely

The City of Ottawa has developed a business reopening toolkit, in consultation with Ottawa Public Health, to help businesses answer critical questions before they can reopen safely.

The gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the months to come will bring new challenges for local businesses to navigate, as well as opportunities to innovate. As Ontario begins to reopen the economy, we encourage all Ottawa businesses and organizations to ensure they are prepared to go back to work safely.

Members of the Ottawa business community can access the toolkit online. It provides guidance on preparing your workplace, employees and operations to resume while ensuring physical distancing, and also provides links to official resources such as public health signage, sector-specific guidelines and government financial assistance programs. Information and resources will be updated regularly on the website as guidance from the Government of Ontario and Ottawa Public Health continues to evolve.


“Businesses are the backbone of our community and it is critical that we have the supports in place to help them succeed. Together with Councillors Laura Dudas and Eli El-Chantiry and our Economic Partners Task Force, the City is pleased to help recovery efforts by providing this roadmap for you to reopen in a way that is good for business while ensuring the safety of employees, clients and customers.”

Mayor Jim Watson

“Thank you to Ottawa businesses for all your efforts to date. Getting people back to work safely is a priority. You ARE making a difference in our community. We all need to keep introducing physical distancing into our work processes, so that we can do our best to avoid a resurgence of infection as we move forward with relaxing current restrictions. Stay updated on the latest guidance to help keep yourselves, your employees, and our community healthy and safe.”

Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health

For up-to-date information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, visit or call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401). You can also connect with us through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

COVID-19 in Ottawa: What's New?

Here’s the City of Ottawa’s weekly roundup of information in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also follow daily City updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

• Missed my Townhall with Dr. Vera Etches and senior City staff? No problem: the hour-long Q&A with residents about the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the City’s YouTube channel.
The City's roadmap for recovery was presented to City Council on Wednesday
• Don’t forget, you can watch live City Council or Committee meetings on the Ottawa City Council YouTube Channel. City Council meetings re also broadcast live on RogersTV Cable 22 and live streamed on the RogersTV website.


The latest from Ottawa Public Health:

• Have questions about wearing non-medical masks? Everything you need to know here.
• COVID-19 testing has expanded. When should you pay a visit to a COVID-19 Care Clinic?


COVID-19 Update from the City of Ottawa

The City of Ottawa is now posting weekly roundups with information regarding the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also keep up with City updates daily on COVID-19 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • The Jim Durrell Arena has been converted to a temporary shelter for people in the shelter system to help mitigate the spread of the virus within the shelter environment. The Complex will open on Saturday, May 2.

City to invest $11.4 million in COVID-19-related social services

Today, I was joined by Councillor Jenna Sudds, the Chair of the City’s Community and Protective Services Committee, to announce how the City will disburse $11.4 million in federal and provincial funding for homelessness initiatives and for community agencies that help at-risk residents respond to COVID-19.

The City received $6.6 million from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. This represents about half of the $13.3 million the Province has committed to the City of Ottawa this year from the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative’s Social Services Relief Fund. The City also received $4.8 million in federal Reaching Home funding under the government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, bringing the total of immediate funding available to $11.4 million.

The City will use $8.4 million to strengthen its response to homelessness initiatives. Funds will be distributed immediately to support emergency shelters; isolation centres and hotel rooms for self-isolation; and physical distancing centres and hotels for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. It will also fund housing and homelessness outreach, basic needs and day programs.

The remaining $3 million will go to community agencies supporting at-risk residents in response to the pandemic.

This funding is in addition to $1.75 million the City already distributed to housing and homelessness partners for priority needs like food supplies and vouchers, added staffing and personal protective equipment.

How to apply
Funding will be available for non-profit organizations in two categories:
• Homelessness service providers and Residential Services Homes that serve individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness
• Agencies that provide essential services and supports to other at-risk residents and communities during the pandemic

Essential services are defined as food security, coordination of services to meet extraordinary needs, and direct support to isolated seniors, at-risk communities and equity-seeking communities – most notably, Indigenous people, low-income households, seniors, women (including those fleeing violence), youth, people living with disabilities, immigrants and newcomers, and rural residents.

Agencies can find application packages at

The application process opens on Monday, April 20. The City will accept applications by email until end of day on Monday April 27, with the aim to disburse funding to our partners in early May. Partners will be notified about funding decisions by Thursday, May 7.

The City anticipates the next $3.3-million installment of the $13.3 million Social Service Relief Fund in July and will continue to assess the evolving needs of the community.

Announcement: Service and Workforce Adjustments due to COVID-19

Ottawa – In order to help flatten the curve and protect the public from the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Ottawa has closed public facilities and has suspended non-essential services, activities and programs.

Today, in consultation with Ottawa Public Health, the City of Ottawa is extending the closure of City facilities, services and large public gatherings until June 30, 2020, as part of a dedicated effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The City of Ottawa remains in a State of Emergency and the City’s Emergency Operations Centre will continue to respond and coordinate all activities associated with keeping Ottawa safe.
Due to the closure of City facilities and cancellation of programming, many part-time employees are without work. As a result, the City of Ottawa has worked in partnership with CUPE 503 to place approximately 4,000 part-time employees from the Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services Department (RCFS) and approximately 280 part-time employees from the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) on an unpaid, job-protected legislated leave of absence, or declared emergency leave, under the Employment Standards Act. During the period that City facilities are closed, there is insufficient work for these employees and this negotiated agreement ensures that staff are not laid-off.
These are not permanent reductions and those impacted will retain their status as City of Ottawa employees. But by taking this step, the City is allowing part-time employees to apply for federal supports. This decision was necessary to ensure the financial well-being of our staff members.
The City of Ottawa will also defer the 2020 summer student employment program until May and will review the viability of the program on a regular basis as the situation evolves.
During this unprecedented time, the City of Ottawa will continue to provide municipal services that residents rely on. City staff are working on a plan to ensure the City’s finances remain stable, municipal services continue and that the full complement of City resources is deployed to support these efforts. Staff will provide an update on the coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the City Council meeting on April 8.
By following the direction of Ottawa Public Health and limiting COVID-19 exposure to essential and critical workers, we can all do our part to ensure that emergency services, garbage collection, water services, public transportation, roads services and support for our most vulnerable can continue.

"We are constantly reviewing the situation, in consultation with the Medical Officer of Health, to determine what is best for the health of our residents. This is not easy for anyone. But to our affected employees, I want to say thank you for your hard work and dedicated service to our community and our residents. I can assure you that this is only a temporary measure, and we look forward to bringing you back to offer the programming that benefits tens of thousands of families across the city.”
Jim Watson, Mayor, City of Ottawa

“As we all respond to the impacts of COVID-19, the City of Ottawa is taking significant steps as an organization. While managing the day-to-day operations, staff are also looking at what a return to our new normal might look like. We anticipate that it may take many months to return the City to full service. I can assure you that we all look forward to the day when we can re-open our facilities, restore our impacted services, and bring our valued employees back to work.”
Steve Kanellakos, City Manager, City of Ottawa

For more information on City programs and services, visit or call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-9656). You can also connect with us through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.