Ottawa’s top doctor urges people to reconsider weekend plans as Ontario pauses social bubbles

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s top doctor is urging people to reconsider weekend plans with people outside their households, including not going to bars and restaurants with friends.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches’s renewed plea for people to limit their social contacts came hours before Ontario put a pause on social circles for residents across the province.

Dr. Etches asked residents Friday to limit their social contacts to help limit the spread of novel coronavirus and take pressure off our health care system.

“Please, if you have plans to gather with friends or acquaintances this weekend, I’m asking you to reconsider,” she said, while warning that Ottawa’s health care system is in “crisis” due to COVID-19.

“Our health care system, our school system, our economy, our loved ones are all counting on you.”

Ottawa set a one-day record with 142 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday.

Later Friday, the Ontario government announced in a news release it’s “pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with those living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else.”

Ontario’s COVID-19 guidelines had allowed residents to create 10-person social circles, which could include people outside their household.

Earlier this week, Dr. Etches asked residents to limit close contacts to those in their own household, including for Thanksgiving dinner. On Friday, she said residents should not be going to bars or restaurants with people who aren’t in their household.

“The most important action is to limit our close contact to our households, and that includes when we go out to bars and restaurants.”

Coun. Keith Egli, the chair of Ottawa’s board of health, also asked people to limit their unnecessary trips out of their home.

“It’s time to get back to basics. The best way to beat COVID-19 is to stop it from spreading in the first place and we can do that by diligently practicing the public health measures that we all know so well,” said Egli.

“Don’t make unnecessary trips outside your home, stay two metres away from people outside your household, wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face except with freshly washed hands, stay home if you’re sick and wear a mask if you are able.”

Coun. Egli clarified his comments, saying, “There are things you need to do and there are things that are more of a want.”

Egli notes people need to get groceries, visit the pharmacies or drive their children. If you go to a restaurant or a movie, Egli says Ottawa Public Health recommends doing that with members of your household only.

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