This past weekend, representatives of Ottawa Public Health (OPH), City of Ottawa By-law and Regulatory Services, and Ottawa Police Service (OPS) met to discuss new measures in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and how these measures might best be administered for a positive impact on health.
These organizations have been working together on a community response to the pandemic since it began. From the onset, OPH has worked in full partnership with all City of Ottawa agencies – including By-law and OPS. The partnership includes local community stakeholders as well as demographic community leaders. All these partners share a full commitment to achieving the best possible public health outcomes: “a healthy safe Ottawa for all residents.”
The current public health crisis has harmed our community in its entirety. However, research to date shows that the most vulnerable, marginalized, and racialized members of our community are disproportionately negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Following last week’s new enforcement authorities and measures announced by the Government of Ontario to assist with enforcing public health orders, many community members have raised concerns and this could possibly make matters worse. These concerns regarding the new measures are in terms of their need and their applicability. The concerns raised by racialized and marginalized communities are top of mind.
OPH, By-law, and OPS continue to jointly review the new authorities provided to police by the Ontario government. As they review, they maintain their commitment to preventing undue distress to community members.
Community cooperation and collaboration is recognized as the best way to achieve public health measures like stay-at-home orders. The goal is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the community by concentrating on addressing the environments with the greatest risk of transmission, typically indoors where people are not wearing masks and where distances cannot be kept between people who live in different households. The risk of transmission of COVID-19 outdoors also occurs where people are in close contact without masks for a duration of time with people from different households.
A focus on encouragement, sharing information, and raising awareness are all anticipated to aid in ultimately achieving adherence to public health measures.
In situations where effective enforcement strategies already exist, community spread is still being observed. Egregious violations of public health orders are covered by enforcing existing measures. Therefore, a coordinated enforcement approach to situations creating public health risk will continue to use the existing tools.
Current public health risk assessment shows that, at this time, enforcement or action by police authorities could create challenges with compliance to public health orders. This may actually set COVID-19 measures back. Current medical literature and professional study reinforces the opinion that, in particular, homeless populations and other disadvantaged communities require support to increase protection from COVID-19.
OPH, By-law, and OPS will continue to work closely with their many communities and public partners to ensure that all community members in Ottawa remain safe and respected and are informed and supported to decrease COVID-19 transmission.