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January 4th - Special statement from Dr. Vera Etches

Hello. Bonjour. Kwey.


Based on what the Province presented yesterday, we know that we are facing a significant challenge with Omicron rising exponentially and the number of new people testing positive expected in the days and weeks ahead. We expect this will have a large impact on the workforce across the health care sector, along with access to hospital beds and hospital-based services.


As Premier Ford and Dr. Moore said yesterday, almost everyone now will know someone who is or has been affected by COVID-19. We are bracing for the impact. We know that at this point transmission of the Omicron variant cannot be completely stopped. I agree with the provincial decision to introduce additional public health measures in the community with the goal to slow the transmission of the Omicron variant and lower the peak of the hospitalizations to what will be manageable.


The provincial decision to delay in-person learning in schools must have been very difficult to make. We know that schools should be the last places to close for the health and well-being of children and youth. Now that the decision has been made to move to virtual learning for the next couple of weeks, we will work with school boards to ensure that children who may need more support can connect with the resources they and their families may need in the weeks ahead.


We know there will be harm from closing schools. For some children and youth, school is a place of respite, where they can access support, food, and safety. Last year, the number of infants presenting with head injuries and/or multiple fractures more than doubled. For families who face domestic violence, school is a protective factor and a place where they receive essential support. We’ve seen from previous lockdowns that parents and caregivers report high levels of stress when schools are closed, restrictions are in place and their ability to work is affected. Also, during previous periods when schools were closed for in-person learning, we saw more mental health challenges and increased hospitalizations with diagnoses such depression, anxiety and eating disorders.


Children and youth, and their families, face a tough time ahead. This will be a difficult period to get through. It may be a few weeks to a month and right now, so we need to do everything we can to take care of each other. It’s more important than ever to reach out to friends, family and neighbours and offer support to give each other a break from what will be a challenging time.


I will continue to advocate for schools to reopen as soon as possible for the health of children and youth. Through this period, parents will need help with childcare and remote learning, and we also need to weigh the risks of mixing with other children from other households outside of school. We know what’s most important to prevent further transmission – screen for symptoms daily, stay home when you’re sick and don’t gather indoors with people outside your household.


There are supports in the community to help you or someone you know.

· If you’re in crisis, please contact the Mental Health Crisis Line (24/7) at 613-722-6914.

· 1call1click.ca is a simple way for children, youth, and families to access the right mental health and addiction care, at the right time.

· The Distress Centre Ottawa (24/7) in also available 24/7 at 613-238-3311

· Ottawa Public Health also provides a comprehensive list of local COVID-19 mental health resources at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDMentalHealth

· Unsafe at Home Ottawa is a secure text and online chat service for women who may be living through increased violence and abuse at home during the pandemic. Their text and online chat services are available 7 days a week from 8:30am to midnight, by text at 613-704-5535 or chat online via their website: UnsafeAtHomeOttawa.ca.


Unlike a year ago when we lived through similar public health restrictions, we have the protection of vaccinations now. We are continuing to work hard to help older adults get their booster doses and we’re working to prioritize teachers and education workers to get their booster doses too. We also want to give children and youth access to their first doses as soon as possible and their second doses will start to be given by the end of January.

We are entering in a new year. I know that we will take care of each other as we face these challenging times together. We are a strong community that supports each other.


Thank you.


Merci. Meegwetch.

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