Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health is recommending a new approach for the capital to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic – learning to coexist with the virus. 

“I have suggested to the province we find a more balanced approach for the way forward,” Dr. Vera Etches said Monday. 

“The approach I’m recommending is that we learn to coexist with COVID with care.” 

Dr. Etches made those comments at the board of health meeting Monday evening.

Following the board of health meeting, Dr. Etches posted the following message on Twitter: “I have written to the Mayor describing the need for a new approach to the pandemic response, for the sake of the population’s health. We need to be learning to live with COVID, to coexist with COVID, with caution.”   


Ottawa’s top doctor suggesting it is time for a new approach to COVID-19: Learning to coexist with the virus.

— Megan Shaw (@meganshawCTV) November 3, 2020


Dr. Etches says as we near the end of the 28-day modified restrictions in Ottawa, it is time to ‘balance harms’ going forward.

“We definitely see harms from the transmission of COVID and we’re worried about hospitalizations and deaths and people not being well,” Dr. Etches said.

“We’re also seeing really signification harms from the closures and the impact on people’s businesses and employment and people’s mental health.”

Dr. Etches says we’re looking at a situation where COVID-19 is going to continue to cause a risk of resurgence in Ottawa for a while.

“We need to find new ways to live with the Virus,” she said.

Dr. Etches says Ottawa has ‘seen what can be done’ after the community decreased the level on COVID-19 in the capital more than once.

“We can do this through our own actions, we can decrease COVID in the community, and it is important to have more economic activity return.” 

Dr. Etches says using ‘harm reduction’ and ensuring there are added safety measures in a bar or restaurant is, in her view, more safe than people gathering at private settings, where there may be no safety measures in place. As a result, Dr. Etches explained it would be less harmful to have people in controlled environments going forward.

“I’ve looked at the levels of unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic response, I’ve looked at indicators of the mental health of our community and the challenges arising from a backlog in surgical and medical procedures. I’m concluding more needs to be done to enable people to return to more of their usual supports and services in their lives,” Dr. Etches said.

“Similar to how schools are able to be open with precautions in place, businesses should be able to open with precautions in place. People should be able to learn to live with COVID with care.”

This doesn’t mean we should let our guard down or become complacent, on the contrary, we must continue to take those individual actions to protect each other. I invite you to listen to the update I provided to the Board of Health this evening: (2/2)

— Dr. Vera Etches (@VeraEtches) November 3, 2020


More to come… 

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