Learning to live with COVID-19, reopening indoor dining and gyms, and Whole Foods in a whole lot of trouble: Top five stories in Ottawa this week

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s top doctor says it’s time to learn to live with COVID-19, restaurants reopen their dining rooms and gyms welcome clients again after being shut down for 28 days, and Whole Foods finds itself in a whole lot of trouble.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at the top five stories in Ottawa from the past week.

International supermarket chain Whole Foods quickly reversed a policy that banned employees from wearing poppies with their uniforms ahead of Remembrance Day.

Within hours of Whole Foods’ initial response, saying employees were not allowed to modify their uniforms, Canadians from all walks of life, including the country’s top politicians, condemned the grocer.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford threatened to introduce legislation that would prohibit employers from banning the wearing of poppies and Parliament unanimously voted to condemn the chain’s policy.

By Friday afternoon, Whole Foods reversed course.

“Our intention was never to single out the poppy or to suggest a lack of support for Remembrance Day and the heroes who have bravely served their country. Given the learnings of today, we are welcoming Team Members to wear the poppy pin in honour of Remembrance Day,” a statement from the company said.

poppy box

Indoor dining, gyms, fitness centres and movie theatres reopened in Ottawa on Saturday, as the national capital region moves into the new “Orange-Restrict” level of Ontario’s COVID-19 tiered shutdown system.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Tuesday.

The “Orange-Restrict” level is the third level in the five level tiered system. It means “intermediate measures” to “implement enhanced measures, restrictions and enforcement avoiding any closures.”

Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments can open for indoor dining, but there’s a 50 person indoor capacity limit, a maximum of four people sitting at a table and last call is at 9 p.m. Gyms and fitness centres can also reopen with a maximum of 50 people per facility.

See here for a list of other restrictions in place in the new “Orange-Restrict” level.

Restaurants

Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, raised eyebrows Monday night when she tweeted that she had written a letter to mayor Jim Watson about a new approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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 said on Twitter, echoing comments she had made earlier at the Board of Health meeting Monday.

Dr. Etches later clarified that she was referring, in part, to lockdown measures that were still in effect at the time.

“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.

To read Dr. Vera Etches’ full letter to Mayor Jim Watson, click here.

Dr. Vera Etches

Ottawa Public Health published another contact tracing example on Monday, this time showing how one person with COVID-19 attending a sports practice led to dozens of positive cases across the city.

The example shows that one person with COVID-19 attended a sports practice indoors with 30 other people. At least nine people from that team later tested positive.

From that team, cases spread to a second team and six other households, including one in which people from different households were all dining indoors.

The spread of COVID-19 that was traced back to the original sports team led to six additional outbreaks, including at two schools, a daycare, and two other sports teams.

The Ottawa Real Estate Board suggests Ottawa’s real estate market may be “shifting” away from condominiums during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more condo properties came on the market in October.

New statistics shows 2,146 residential properties sold in Ottawa in October, up 34 per cent from the 1,604 units sold in October 2019. The five-year average for October unit sales is 1,515.

October’s average sale price for a residential class property was $603,253, while the average price for a condo property was $368,936.

Home sold sign

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