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COVID-19 assessment centre to open in Ottawa next week

Details regarding the exact location and how it will operate are expected to be announced in the coming days.
2020-03-11 coronavirus news conference
Ottawa City Councillor Keith Egli (left), Mayor Jim Watson (middle left), Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches (middle right) and Dr. Andrew Wilmore (right) give a COVID-19 update after the first case is confirmed in the city, March 11, 2020. Photo/ Mayor Jim Watson Twitter

As Ottawa deals with its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, health officials in the city are working to open a COVID-19 assessment centre.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Andrew Wilmore with The Ottawa Hospital said there are plans to open two centres in the city, but they will start with the first one next week.

Details about where the centres will be located and how they will operate are expected to be unveilled in the coming days, as work to gather equipment and ready staff is still underway.

The Ottawa Hospital has recently been creating special coronavirus-focussed teams. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said 70 nurses have been reassigned to date.

She added, currently OPH gets about 200 calls per day regarding the coronavirus and between 10 to 20 cases where a resident is showing symptoms of the virus coupled with a travel history that could suggests COVID-19. Those people are told to stay in self-isolation and monitor their symptoms before being officially tested. They then wait for their results to come back before being cleared.

Dr. Etches said 150 potential cases have been cleared, locally.

Until assessment centres can be open locally, COVID-19 tests are being done at Ottawa hospital emergency rooms and sent away for analysis at province-run locations. Dr. Etches explained that those test results are taking about a day to come back. In a local assessment centre, results should be known within six hours.

Dr. Wilmore said more than two centres could open in Ottawa, but it's something officials will revisit as the local situation evolves.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been no evidence of local transmission of the coronavirus.

OPH added a few tips to avoid the virus:

  • Question whether work-related travel is necessary
  • Working from home can decrease transmission
  • When it comes to large events that bring large crowds, especially many people from outside the country, she would suggest postoning for the time being
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just cleaned your hands 
  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or into your arm, not your hand
  • If possible, stay home if you are sick
  • Avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick 
  • It is still recommended to get your flu shot if you haven’t already, as the flu virus is still circulating in the community
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