The City of Ottawa’s state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic will end Thursday after midnight, 484 days after it first began, Mayor Jim Watson announced Wednesday.
Watson said in his opening remarks at city council Wednesday morning that ending the municipal state of emergency, which he said allowed the city to be “nimble” in procurement and reorganizing staff, does not mark the end of the pandemic.
The city’s emergency operations centre will be scaled down to “activated operations,” which Watson said will allow the city to continue the day-to-day operations in pandemic response such as managing the vaccination rollout and other public health measures.
“We’re not quite out of this, but it’s important to acknowledge the incredible progress we’ve made to date,” he said.
Watson first declared the state of emergency on March 25, 2020.
As of Wednesday, there have been 27,745 cases of COVID-19 in the city and 593 deaths related to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
The city’s mass vaccination campaign has meanwhile seen 68 per cent of adults receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 1.3 million shots administered in the city.
Watson said there has been a “renewed sense of energy in the city” as the province enters Step 3 of reopening and begins a return to “normalcy.”
But even as the local state of emergency lifts, all public health restrictions such as distancing indoors and gathering limits remain under the provincial rules.
The city’s mandatory mask bylaw, which governs rules around masking in public places, remains in place as well.
That temporary bylaw is set to expire on Aug. 26 and will not be renewed, the city’s general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte confirmed to reporters on Wednesday.
That doesn’t mean masks are going anywhere, however.
Di Monte explained that the mandatory mask bylaw was put in place at the municipal level based on the advice of public health officials back in July 2020, before masks were mandated provincially.
No COVID-19 outbreaks active in Ottawa
Now that Ontario has legislation in place governing the use of masks in public spaces, bylaw officers in Ottawa have been using those regulations to enforce masking locally. When the temporary bylaw expires on Aug. 26, the city will continue to defer to the provincial law.
“It becomes a little redundant,” Di Monte said of having two levels of legislation on the issue.
If the province drops its regulations but health officials determine rules are still needed, a mask mandate could be reimposed locally, either via bylaw or a section 22 public health order.
“Masks work when most of us are wearing them,” Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa’s associate medical officer of health, said after Wednesday’s city council meeting.
Moloughney said Ottawa Public Health is monitoring COVID-19 levels locally and in other jurisdictions that have dropped regulations recently to determine what health measures will be effective to combat the Delta variant heading into the fall.
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