More Balanced COVID-19 Approach Needed, Says Ottawa’s Top Doctor

We need to 'learn to coexist with COVID,' Dr. Vera Etches says

More Balanced COVID-19 Approach Needed, Says Ottawa’s Top Doctor
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's chief medical officer of health, is seen on a screen as she participates in a news conference via livestream on Sept. 18, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
Andrew Chen

Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says the city needs to find a more balanced approach regarding COVID-19 and learn to coexist with the virus.

“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,” Etches said during a Board of Health meeting on Nov. 2.

Etches made her comments a day before Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced new restriction criteria, allowing businesses to reopen in some areas.

Earlier restrictions, which went into effect on Oct. 10, were introduced in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto and York regions. The restrictions include a reduction of limits on social gatherings, the prohibition of indoor service of food and drinks, and the closure of gyms, casinos, movie theatres, and other high social-contact facilities.

“As we approach the 28-day mark, since these restrictions came into effect, I have suggested to the province that we find a more balanced approach forward,” said Etches.

“The approach I’m recommending is that we learn to coexist with COVID, with care. And the goals of the response continue to be the same—to minimize hospitalization and death, as well as societal disruption.”

Etches said that the rapid rise in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa seen in September and October has been stabilized.

“I realize my tweet has caused some concern, that was not my intent. What I am saying is that COVID is not going anywhere anytime soon and we must learn to live with the presence of the virus in our community,” Etches later noted in a Twitter message.

“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.”

Partial lockdowns remain in place in Quebec and Manitoba.

“We have to juggle quality of life, and life itself,” said Quebec Premier François Legault on Nov. 2. “To save lives, we are affecting the quality of life of citizens but it's a necessary evil, in my opinion.”
Alberta, however, has stayed away from lockdowns. Premier Jason Kenney said restrictions need to be balanced so there are no "unintended consequences."
The province's chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw has said Alberta is using "targeted measures" to keep the virus spread manageable.