I hope everyone is staying safe, (virtually) connecting with family and friends, and taking care of their physical and mental health.
Yesterday Dr. Etches, head of Ottawa Public Health suggested “the use of the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” This language is beginning to be used around the world and is clearer about what we are recommending to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We want residents to keep a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others, but not to disconnect socially. It is very important during this time, that we maintain social connections to support our mental health; however, these social connections with people outside your household should be done through phone calls and other technology as much as possible.”
Reminder: now is not the time for visiting friends, hosting dinner parties, or gathering in groups. I understand that these are trying times, but the sooner we flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the virus, the sooner we can return to our normal lives.
City of Ottawa State of Emergency
Mayor Jim Watson today declared a State of Emergency for the City of Ottawa due to the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa. This aligns with Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s announcement on Monday, March 23 that he is expanding Ontario’s state of emergency to shut down all non-essential services.
Declaring a state of emergency will help the City deploy its emergency operations and staff in a more nimble fashion. It will also enable a more flexible procurement process, which will help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders as it becomes available in the coming weeks.
Ottawa Public Health now has laboratory confirmation of the community spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa. We are also starting to see cases among health care workers who have not traveled or been a close contact of a confirmed case. Ottawa Public Health recommends all residents practise physical (social) distancing or self-isolate, if applicable, to help stop the spread of the virus. Information about laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 is available on OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.
Following the declaration, the City formally requested the Province of Ontario to give the City flexibility to manage movement of staff, to redeploy resources, to support essential services and to be adaptable as this situation continues to evolve rapidly.
This declaration follows the Premier’s order to shut down all non-essential services, which took effect this morning.
To view the list of essential workplaces that are still open, click here.
Expansion of the Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program
Over the past week, the Finance Services Department has heard from residents, business owners, and Members of Council regarding the proposed Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program. In response, the Finance Services Department will be expanding the proposed criteria to include businesses with an assessed property value of up to $7.5M that have been financially affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased business assessed property value criteria will now cover 91% of all commercial properties in Ottawa, up from 76% at the $2.5M threshold.
To qualify, an account would need to have been paid up to date before the interim tax installment. The deferral application will be available online and would extend the interim (March 19) and final (June 18) tax due dates to October 30, 2020.
Water Utility Bill
Revenue Services is extending an interest free 30-day payment grace period for all unpaid water bills issued before April 1, 2020 and a 30-day due date extension, for all water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020, providing residents with 47 days to pay their bill.
Pre-authorized debit payments for water bills issued before April 1, 2020 will be withdrawn on the regular due date and pre-authorized debit payments for water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020 will be withdrawn on the extended due date.
Additionally, the City has extended the suspension of all water service disconnections until October 30, 2020.
The City has an established water utility bill deferral program to support low income seniors and low-income people with disabilities. More information on the program and how to apply can be found on ottawa.ca.
Outreach to Isolated Seniors
The Good Companions’ Seniors Centre Without Walls has expanded its services with a focus on outreach to vulnerable and isolated seniors and other populations. Emotional and practical support is provided via telephone. In addition, they have trained 20 agencies (32 staff) to do similar outreach calls through various programs.
Rural Ottawa Support Services is working with Good Companions to provide similar telephone outreach and practical supports to isolated seniors through their A Friendly Voice program, which does wellness calls connecting seniors to local services and programs.
Ottawa Community Housing has facilitated wellness check phone calls to approximately 2,700 residents, focusing on people identified on the Fire Evacuation List.
Ottawa Food Bank is supporting the emergency food centres and are coordinating with other task force members to sort and deliver food where needed. Demand has increased by 30 per cent across community food banks. They are working with the Salvation Army to support distribution of food hampers offered by local restauranteurs. The City is providing facility space for safe storage of food hampers.
Meals on Wheels has been increasing offers of frozen food for seniors in the Ottawa area and connecting with Ottawa Food Bank to provide hamper supplies and deliveries. Since the COVID- 19 pandemic, they are delivering 100 fresh and 700 frozen meals daily. These services have ensured a supply of full dinners for those individuals in need.
Working with other non-profit organizations, the Good Companions and Champlain Community Support Network are coordinating urgent transportation to medical appointments, assessment centres, and food centres/grocery stores for those with financial constraints, transportation difficulties, and/or health and mobility issues.
Services can be accessed by contacting Good Companions website or by telephone at 613-236- 0428.
Housing Supports for Vulnerable Residents
The Isolation Centre at the Routier Community Centre opened on Monday, March 23, 2020 to provide space for homeless single men and single women who need to self-isolate. The current capacity is 10 beds, with the ability to expand to 40 beds should the need arise. Supports for residents within the centre are being provided by Ottawa Inner City Health and Ottawa Public Health. Currently five residents have been referred to and are staying at the Centre.
Housing Services has secured a 29-room location to provide isolation space for families and youth, which is anticipated to open the week of April 1st.
Housing Services has also identified additional hotel rooms for families currently in the shelter and motel system to promote social distancing, and to increase access to cooking facilities.
Work is also underway with community partners to establish mechanisms to increase food security for families living in hotels/ motels that do not have adequate cooking facilities.
Rooming House Services is conducting visits to each licensed rooming house address, delivering resources from Ottawa Public Health on COVID-19. They are also working with the Parkdale Food Market to deliver 100 frozen meals and bread to rooming house tenants. Staff will continue to coordinate with restaurants and rooming house owners to address food insecurity.
Get the latest updates on COVID-19 from our Public Health Agencies:
For medical advice, you may contact Telehealth Ontario, a free, confidential service. A Registered Nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region
Situations like COVID-19 can affect your mental health. Please reach out and ask for help, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is available 24/7 to talk.
Note about our Office
Following the lead of the Ottawa Public Health, our office will be working remotely until further notice. Our team will continue to serve you through our social media channels, phone line, and e-mail. We will continue to support resident inquiries and we will be exploring alternative ways of engaging with the community instead of public events.
Here's how you can continue to contact and engage with us:
- Social Media: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from our office.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call us at 613-580-2483
Email is the preferred method of contact for the quickest response.