Etches emphasizes balancing health, economy in Ottawa’s COVID-19 fight

Ottawa’s medical officer of health applauded the city’s business community Friday for its role in keeping the number of local COVID-19 cases relatively low, but cautioned that some measures aimed at controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus could remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Speaking at a virtual edition of the Mayor’s Breakfast series, co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade, Dr. Vera Etches said rules requiring masks to be worn indoors and protocols to promote physical distancing will remain even as vaccines are rolled out.

However, Etches emphasized that both public health and the economy are priorities that will “go together” as part of the recovery.

“We know that the loss of employment ... and businesses that have lost savings (is) incredibly stressful and definitely harmful to health,” she said. “The government (financial) supports have been important, and we need to continue to help people through this pandemic.”

Etches said the continued use of remote work arrangements, combined with the quick reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks that have occurred in workplaces, have helped to prevent further spread of the virus.

While some bars, restaurants and gyms expressed frustration this fall over provincial rules that forced them to close for nearly a month, Etches emphasized the collaboration between local officials and Ottawa employers that’s helped the city navigate the pandemic.

“It’s been really helpful to have (businesses’) input and perspective, and I think that we’re continuing to be open to hear what we can do to improve our response,” she said. “We do understand keeping people employed has got to be a public health goal.”

To hear Etches’ full conversation with Mark Sutcliffe, watch the video above.