Year in review: One year of COVID-19 in Ottawa

OTTAWA — One year after the first case of COVID-19 in Ottawa, the city is ramping up the campaign to vaccinate all residents with the COVID-19 vaccine.

The city’s first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 11, 2020. Since then, Ottawa Public Health reported 15,259 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 446 deaths. looks at the key events in Ottawa during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa Public Health announced Ottawa’s first case of novel coronavirus – a man in his 40s who travelled to Austria and experienced mild symptoms upon his return.

Ottawa’s first case of COVID-19 came the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Update on Ottawa's first coronavirus case

On the eve of March Break for thousands of students, the Ontario Government announced all public and Catholic schools would close for two weeks following the break.

Schools remained closed for three weeks, and then Ontario launched a new online learning program with both live and pre-recorded lesson plans.

Students would not return to school for in-person classes until September.

Ottawa’s first COVID-19 assessment centre opened at Brewer Arena on Friday, March 13.

The assessment centre first opened to divert people with COVID-19 symptoms away from hospital emergency rooms.

Four days after Ottawa’s first case of COVID-19, medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches urged people not to go out for non-essential reasons.

“People should stay home unless there is an essential reason to take a trip to the grocery store, to a pharmacy, to look after an ill friend or family member.”

Dr. Etches also recommended people work from home if possible.

Ottawa COVID-19 assessment centre

One week after declaring a state of emergency in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses allowed to stay open included grocery stores and pharmacies, LCBO and Beer Stores, along with restaurants and bars for takeout and delivery only.

On March 25, Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency for the city of Ottawa due to the spread of COVID-19.

“Declaring a state of emergency will help our City Manager, Steve Kanellakos, and his team deploy our emergency operations in a quicker and more nimble fashion,” Watson said.

The cty of Ottawa closed all municipal facilities on Mar. 16. They remained closed until Ottawa entered Stage 2 of the COVID-19 restrictions in June.  

Ottawa City Hall

Nine days after the first case of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health reported the first death in the community linked to COVID-19.

A man in his 90s died at the Ottawa Hospital, five days after he was admitted with a fever. Public health said the man was living at home, and had no travel history.

On April 1, the Quebec government deployed police in the Outaouais region to “limit non-essential movements” between Ontario and Quebec.

The Surete du Quebec and Gatineau Police set up daily checkpoints at the five crossings between Ottawa and Gatineau. The restrictions at the Ottawa-Gatineau border were lifted on Monday, May 18.

In May, Gatineau Police estimated the checkpoints cost $400,000.

Gatineau-Ottawa border screen

April 7: COVID-19 outbreak declared on Carlingview Manor

Carlingview Manor was the long-term care home hardest hit by COVID-19 in the city of Ottawa this year.

Ottawa Public Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the long-term care home on April 9. A total 170 residents and 90 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 during the first outbreak. Sixty residents died due to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 outbreak ended on June 18.

Three more COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at Carlingview Manor through the year.

Call for inquiry in Carlingview Manor

The City of Ottawa surpassed 1,000 cases of COVID-19 on April 24, 44 days after the first case of COVID-19.

Two months after ordering non-essential businesses to close, Ontario launched the “restart phase” of reopening allowing some businesses to reopen. All construction activities could resume and retail stores could offer curbside pickup.

The regional approach to reopening included three stages for businesses to open.

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 on Sunday, June 7.

That week, associate medical officer of health Dr. Brent Moloughney told reporters that an estimated one per cent of Ottawa’s population had tested positive for COVID-19.

More than two months after Ontario shutdown non-essential businesses due to COVID-19, malls, businesses, restaurant patios and hair salons were allowed to reopen in Ottawa.

Ottawa moved into Stage 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan on June 12.

Ontario also increased the size of social gatherings to 10 people, as long as physical distancing measures were in place.  

Patio on Sidewalk Ottawa

Starting June 15, OC Transpo required all riders to wear a face mask on buses, the O-Train, Para Transpo vehicles and in stations.

While the City of Ottawa’s policy stated masks are mandatory on buses and the O-Train, OC Transpo insisted no customer would be denied boarding if they are not wearing a mask.

OC Transpo

Medal Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches issued a directive making face masks mandatory in an indoor public spaces across Ottawa.

“Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission, while the risk of rising rates of infection continues,” Dr. Etches said.

One week after Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches ordered masks be worn in all indoor public settings, Council approved a bylaw to enforce the rules of the mandatory face mask policy.

The mandatory mask bylaw for enclosed public spaces includes a fine ranging between $200 and $400 for violating the rules.

Masks are mandatory in city of Ottawa buildings and facilities, retail locations, places of worship, museums, public areas in hotels and restaurants.

Dr. Etches issued an order on July 7 to make masks mandatory in indoor public places.

On Aug. 26, Council voted to extend the mandatory mask bylaw to common areas of apartment and condominium buildings.

Making masks mandatory in Ottawa

Ottawa moved into Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan on July 17, allowing bars and restaurants to open for indoor dining.

Movie theatres, gyms and fitness centres also reopened during Stage 3.

September: Students return to school for the first time since March

Students in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Catholic School Board and the two French school boards returned to class in September.

The Ontario Government unveiled plans for both in-person and remote learning for students this school year due to COVID-19.

Both the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board staggered the start of the school year.  High school classes at Ottawa’s boards were divided into two cohorts for in-person learning.

Brewer Arena COVID-19 testing

Ottawa surpassed 3,000 cases of COVID-19 as tens of thousands of students were preparing to return to school for the new school year.

On Sept. 3, Ottawa Public Health reported 22 new cases of COVID-19, the tenth time in 11 days that Ottawa had seen a double-digit increase in cases.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches announced Ottawa was in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, after people got a little too relaxed with COVID-19 measures in August.

Speaking with reporters after meeting with Premier Doug Ford at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, CTV News Ottawa’s Christina Succi asked Dr. Etches if Ottawa was in the second wave of the pandemic.

“Yes, we’re seeing a rise in cases and it’s the speed of the increase that concerns us,” said Dr. Etches. “We can’t sustain a rapid rise in cases; we need to be able to keep it to a manageable level.”

Dr. Vera Etches

Ottawa Public Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Monsignor Paul Baxter School on Sept. 19, and ordered the school closed due to COVID-19.

It was the first Ottawa school ordered closed due to COVID-19. Two staff members and two students at the school tested positive.

In October, three Ottawa schools closed due to COVID-19: St. Jerome elementary school, Horizon-Jeunesse elementary and Franco-Cite secondary school.

Monsignor Paul Baxter School

In September, Ottawa Public Health shared a real world example of what community transmission of COVID-19 looked like in Ottawa.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said that of the 40 people who attended an outdoor barbecue in a park, two people went on to develop symptoms of COVID-19.

It ended with more than 100 people having to self-isolate for two weeks and be tested for the virus.

The party ultimately led to 27 positive COVID-19 cases.

Contact tracing

Ottawa Public Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Extendicare Starwood on September 25.  Since then, 134 residents and 53 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Twenty-five residents died due to COVID-19.

Starwood was the hardest hit long-term care home during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa

Twenty-three days after Ottawa hit 3,000 cases of COVID-19, the total number of cases of novel coronavirus surpassed 4,000.

On Sept 26, Ottawa Public Health reported 45 cases of COVID-19, pushing the total number of cases to 4,005.

Ottawa Public Health reported 105 new cases of COVID-19 on Sept. 29, the first time Ottawa saw a triple-digit increase in COVID-19 cases.

On Twitter, Mayor Jim Watson said, “Today’s record case numbers are unsettling to say the least. We all have a role to play in help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

“One of the best ways you can help limit the spread of this virus is by keeping your close contacts to just those in your household.”

On the eve of the Thanksgiving long weekend, Ottawa set a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases.

Ottawa Public Health reported 183 new cases of COVID-19 on Oct. 8, the highest one-day increase in new cases since the start of the pandemic.

Ottawa also surpassed 5,000 total cases of COVID-19 the same day.

On the same day Ottawa set a single-day record for COVID-19 cases, Ottawa Public Health showed how an indoor wedding was linked to 22 cases of COVID-19.

Public health says in September, one person with mild symptoms of COVID-19 attended a wedding with 50 people who were not physical distancing or wearing masks.

Within 15 days, 207 people were told to self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19. According to the Ottawa Public Health graphic, eleven households had at least one case of COVID-19.

Ottawa Public Health

With COVID-19 cases rising in Ottawa through the fall, the Ontario Government ordered the closure of indoor dining at restaurants and bars and closed fitness centres and movie theatres.

Ottawa moved to a modified Stage 2 for a minimum of 28 days. The new measures were also imposed in Peel and Toronto.

“This 28 day temporary closure of certain businesses presents an opportunity for us to collectively realize the seriousness of what is before us, and for all of us to reset and refocus our actions towards flattening the curve and eliminating the virus,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

Ottawa closed signs window

Ottawa’s medical officer of health told Council that Ottawa had the highest rate of COVID-19 in Ontario, at 70 cases per 100,000 people. Toronto’s rate per 100,000 people was 57.

On Nov. 28, Ottawa dropped to 21 cases per 100,000 people.

Ottawa opens COVID-19 assessment centre

A 53-year-old Ottawa woman is facing charges under the federal Quarantine Act after Ottawa police say she failed to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad and returned to work at a long-term care home.

Ottawa police say information was received indicating that an Ottawa woman had travelled abroad. She returned to Canada on Sept. 26, so she was required under federal law to quarantine for 14 days, until Oct. 9

“The woman decided not to respect this order and went to work on Sept. 30 at a long-term health facility in Ottawa,” police said in a news release. “When management was apprised of the situation, she was immediately sent home. The facility immediately activated mitigating self-isolation and cleaning protocols and informed all persons that had been in contact with the subject.”

Ottawa Police

Just over a week after Ottawa moved to a modified Stage 2 of COVID-19 restrictions, the capital surpassed 6,000 cases of COVID-19.

Ottawa Public Health reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 on Oct. 18, bringing the total number of cases to 6,036.

On Halloween, the 7,000 case of novel coronavirus was reported in Ottawa.

Ottawa Public Health reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 on Oct. 31.

After four weeks in the modified Stage 2 COVID-19 restrictions, Ottawa moved to the “orange-restrict” zone in Ontario’s new coloured-coded tiered restrictions system.

In the “restrict” status, bars, restaurants and other food and drink establishments could open for indoor dining, but there was a 50 person indoor capacity limit, a maximum of four people sitting at a table and last call at 9 p.m. Gyms, fitness centres and movie theatres were also allowed to re-open

COVID Red to Orange: Ottawa opens up

Ottawa Public Health reported Ottawa surpassed 8,000 total cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 18.

There were 37 new cases of COVID-19 announced that day.

Ottawa Public Health announced 70 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, Dec. 13, pushing Ottawa’s total COVID-19 case count over the 9,000 case mark.

A total 3,541 of the 9,000 cases involve Ottawa residents under the age of 30.

Dec. 14: COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Ottawa

Three-thousand doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus, the first doses to arrive in the capital.

The 3,000 doses would be enough to vaccinate 1,500 health care workers in long-term care homes and high-risk settings.

COVID-19 vaccines arrive at Ottawa Hospital

Just over nine months after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Ottawa, the first person in the capital was vaccinated against COVID-19.

At 8 a.m. on Dec. 15, personal support worker Jo-Anne Miner received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.

“I just hope it’s the start to everybody wanting to take the vaccine to help our city become COVID-free,” Miner told CTV Morning Live shortly after getting the shot.


Mayor Jim Watson says he was “blindsided” by the Ontario government’s decision to impose a 28-day lockdown on Ottawa and southern Ontario, starting Dec. 26.

Premier Doug Ford announced a strict province-wide lockdown, forcing nearly all non-essential businesses to close. The 28-day lockdown will last until Jan. 23 for all regions in southern Ontario.

“As we face this provincial decision today, there are simply no facts to support a lockdown in the city of Ottawa. It is not based on our numbers or on the professional advice from OPH to the province’s chief medical officer of health,” said Watson.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told reporters the decision to impose a 28-day lockdown was disappointing, adding she asked Ontario officials to consider a 14-day lockdown for Ottawa.

Jim Watson

Ontario woke up the day after Christmas to a province-wide lockdown designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Ontario government announced the lockdown would last until Jan. 23 for all regions in southern Ontario, and until Jan. 9 for regions in northern Ontario.

The province-wide lockdown allowed only essential businesses to remain open.

Ontario lockdown 'punishes' Ottawa

The first case of COVID-19 variant detected in the U.K. was confirmed in Ottawa on Dec. 27.

Ottawa Public Health says the individual returned from the United Kingdom on Dec. 19 and had been self-isolating since their return to Canada.

One high-risk contact, who lives with the individual, had been identified.

As the clock ticked down on 2020, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches warned officials were seeing an “upturn” in COVID-19 activity in the community.

Ottawa’s positivity rate jumped to 2.5 per cent for the week of Dec. 23-29 and the cases per 100,000 increased to 40.1 – both red zone indicators.

“We are in a time where our actions matter – today what we do will make the picture better in two weeks,” said Dr. Etches.

“Again, it is not too late to change your plans for New Year’s to make sure that you have safer plans, to make sure you stick with the members of your household. We know that the earlier we act to bring the numbers back down, the easier it is to bring them back down.

Dr. Vera Etches on how Ottawa is faring

On the first day of 2021, Ottawa surpassed 10,000 cases of COVID-19.

Ottawa Public Health reported 122 new cases of COVID-19 on Jan 1, pushing the total case numbers to 10,051.

Parliament Hill

Jan 9: Ottawa sets new one-day case record

Ottawa set a new one-day record for COVID-19 cases on Jan. 9, with 234 new cases of COVID-19.

The previous record was 210 cases, set back on Jan 8.

Ottawa also surpassed 11,000 total cases during the pandemic.

Ontario issued a stay-at-home order for the entire province and declared a second state of emergency.

The stay-at-home order required everyone to remain at home, with the exception of essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store, pharmacy, accessing health-care services, exercising, or essential work.

The stay-at-home order remained in effect for Ottawa until Feb. 16

doug ford

Ottawa Public Health reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 on Jan. 26, bringing Ottawa’s COVID-19 case count to 13,000.

Students in Ottawa returned to class for in-person learning on Feb. 1.

Elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa have been closed for in-person learning since the end of the Christmas break on Jan. 4.

On Feb. 11, the Ontario government announced the March Break would be postponed until April 12-16.


The city of Ottawa reached a milestone in its fight against COVID-19 on Feb. 5.

Mayor Jim Watson said on Twitter that the city finished administering the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to residents in all long-term care homes.

The city had completed the first round of vaccinations in long-term care homes on Jan. 15.

Ottawa Paramedics

Ottawa surpassed 14,000 cases of COVID-19 on Family Day.

Ottawa Public Health reported 59 new cases of novel coronavirus on Feb. 15, bringing Ottawa’s total case numbers to 14,007.

Fifty-two days after Ottawa and eastern Ontario moved into lockdown, restaurants, non-essential businesses and gyms reopened for in-person services.

The Ontario government moved Ottawa into the “orange-restrict” zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework at the end of the lockdown and stay-at-home order.

In the “orange-restrict” level, restaurants can open for in-person dining, but last call is at 9 p.m. and capacity restrictions limit the number of people sitting at a table to four people. Businesses can also open for in-person shopping, and gyms will be allowed to open with restrictions.

Ontario COVID-19 restrictions

Two employees at a retirement home have been let go following allegations an ineligible person received the COVID-19 vaccine at the facility in Ottawa’s west end.

A week earlier, Riverstone Retirement Communities announced a manager at Stirling Park Retirement Community was suspended and an investigation was underway after it was made aware of “concerns in regards to recent vaccination efforts at one of our communities.”

CTV News confirmed a manager at Stirling Park was accused of stopping a housekeeping aide from being vaccinated so his wife could get the vaccine instead.

Stirling Park

Ottawa Public Health finished administering the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to all retirement home residents.

Staff delivered the dose to residents in 82 retirement homes across the city.

Ottawa paramedics

Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign ramped up on March 5, as the city began vaccinating residents 80 and older in high-risk neighbourhoods.

The city announced that residents who were born in or before 1941, or who are adult recipients of chronic home care, and who live in the following communities were eligible to receive the vaccine first:

  • Emerald Woods 
  • Heatherington 
  • Ledbury 
  • Heron Gate 
  • Ridgemont 
  • Riverview 
  • Sawmill Creek 

Ottawa Public Health will begin vaccinating all residents of Ottawa over the age of 90 on Friday, March 12. 

Ottawa COVID-19 vaccinations

Ottawa Public Health reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 on March 6, bringing Ottawa’s total case count to 15,054.

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