Limit Thanksgiving dinner to your household: Dr. Etches

OTTAWA — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Ottawa, the medical officer of health is urging residents to limit close contacts to those in their own household, including for Thanksgiving dinner.

Ottawa Public Health reported 64 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, after a record 105 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts on Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches admitted the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa today is “critical.”

“The numbers are growing expediently, doubling very quickly and it is a case that it’s too high for us to avoid the societal disruption that’s happening. It is getting into our schools, getting into long-term care,” said Dr. Etches.

“I want to emphasis that it is up to us, that we don’t have to wait for the government to decide what’s going to be closed or open, and we want things to be open. If we each go back to our household members are the only people we should be in close contact with and a couple of other people who give us support, that will make a difference”

CFRA’s Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Etches if Ottawa and Ontario should ban social gatherings for 28 days, including for Thanksgiving dinner, to get the COVID-19 situation under control.

“I do think this is a very important aspect of what’s driving the pandemic. Not stopping thanksgiving, but having Thanksgiving with just the people you live with,” said Dr. Etches.

“And maybe one or two if you’re a single person, if you have grandparents that support you those people you can include. But not different households gathering, not multiple different gatherings across different days. We really need to stick with the people we live with.”

Dr. Etches added support systems are important for people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Single people of all ages need somebody that they’re connected to. We’ve learned that from the first wave that it’s too harsh to say that an individual person has to stay isolated. We need social connections. Single parents need support around child care,” said Dr. Etches.

“We really are at a time when we need to be very careful we don’t get into the economic devastation of more businesses having to close, more businesses going under. We need to enable economic activity to continue and so this is really a call for us to do this now.”

Last Friday, the Ontario Government announced changes to operating hours for bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Establishments must stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m., and close at 12 p.m.

Dr. Etches told Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Public Health and the city are looking at all options to limit the spread of COVID-19, but enforcement will not change the curve.

“Enforcement is never really what’s going to turn a curve or change behaviour at a societal level. We’ve had very rare instances where we’ve had to ask bylaw to enforce something,” said Dr. Etches when asked if Ottawa Public Health has enough tools in the toolbox to control people not following the rules.

“It’s really about us each of us caring for each other, setting the social norms. You see people trying to keep two metres from others outside their household, really thinking about that in all settings.”

Dr. Etches added people need to visit restaurants or other venues with only those in their social bubble.

“We want restaurants open but we can’t have them being a gathering place for multiple different groups of people and connections that’s going to lead to COVID transmission.”

The medical officer of health says officials are looking at new measures for all places that people gather in a bid to limit COVID-19 spread, including movie theatres, restaurants and places where people play sports.

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