FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE: Community organizations demand Council, OPH bring back protections for Ottawa residents in light of rapidly increasing COVID case counts
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa and the Disability Justice Network of Ontario are calling on Ottawa City Council, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and Ottawa Chief Medical Officer Vera Etches to use the power they have under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Promotion and Protection Act to take action and bring back several essential measures to fight against an increasingly worsening COVID wave.
As of earlier this week, the COVID positivity rate in Ottawa’s wastewater, which OPH and medical experts are using to monitor levels of COVID, had doubled in just over a month to 16.1% from 8.7%. Additionally, across Ontario, COVID-related deaths are at a dire level, counting 11,333 deaths as of July 4th in just over half a year. This number would suggest that we are en route to massively surpass last year’s number of 13,739 deaths.
Despite the increased deaths and this worrying trend in waste water, Dr. Etches has neglected to re-implement measures. In a statement this past March, she put the majority of the blame for COVID spread on individual residents over any other factor.
“Not only is it clear that the pandemic is not over but we are heading for a wave similar to, if not worse, than previous waves before it,” said Sam Hersh, a Board member of Horizon Ottawa. “To stop this from getting any worse than it could be, we are asking once again for our Council and Etches and her team to stop simply touting rhetoric about kindness and actually take real action to help Ottawans under the power they have.”
Horizon Ottawa and the Disability Justice Network of Ontario are demanding:
- A return to free and widely accessible PCR testing.
- Extend the availability of free RATs (Rapid Antigen Testing kits) indefinitely.
- Universal, free access to high quality N99 or N95 masks.
- Re-implementation of masking requirements in high risk, essential settings like medical clinics, public transit, pharmacies, and grocery stores at minimum.
- A return to daily updated data on COVID transmission,
- Disclosure especially in high risk settings such as workplaces.
- A return to indoor capacity limits.
- Access to a fourth shot for all adult residents of Ottawa.
- Writing to the provincial government in support of the extension of paid sick days, financial aid and rent relief for those who cannot work due to COVID infection.
OPH and Dr. Etches have the power under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Promotion and Protection Act, to “require a person to take or to refrain from taking any action in respect of a communicable disease” without approval from the provincial government. OPH and Etches have consistently refused to act on Section 22 and protect the lives of marginalized and immunocompromised people. This was evident in 2021 for example, when OPH refused to publicly name and close businesses where COVID-19 outbreaks of 5 or more employees took place.
“We have repeatedly asked Etches and OPH to stop putting elders, institutionalized people, disabled people and low-income residents at risk. We should not have to beg for the bare minimum, a return to COVID-19 protections that Etches and OPH once prosthelytize. We have pleaded with Etches and OPH and they failed, capitulating to the Ford government and corporate interest, and now cases could reach an all-time high,” said Megan Linton, a representative of Disability Justice Network of Ontario. “We will continue to be in this vicious cycle of death and disease if authorities continue to prioritize political expediency over the lives of residents. Etches needs to finally take action or be replaced with someone who will.”
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