COVID-19 receding in Ottawa, but Etches urges vigilance

·2 min read

Ottawa's recent surge of COVID-19 cases may have reached its peak, the city's medical officer of health said Wednesday.

During a virtual news conference Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches told reporters there are several positive signs indicating Ottawa has turned a corner.

"We are seeing a few encouraging indicators that the provincial shutdown measures which began in December, on the 26th, are starting to have an impact on the COVID-19 situation here in Ottawa," Etches said.

Namely, the percentage of people testing positive is in decline. Last week, 4.5 per cent of those tested for COVID-19 were positive, but by Wednesday, that figure had dropped to 3.5 per cent.

The overall number of positive tests has also dropped, and those who do test positive are reporting fewer close contacts, Etches said. Currently, the average number of close contacts per infected person in Ottawa is 1.3.

COVID-19 levels in the city's wastewater are also declining, Etches said.

While there's reason to be optimistic, Etches credited the drastic shutdown measures for the decline in cases, and warned that trend could reverse if residents let down their guard.

"While we would still meet the criteria for a red zone in the provincial framework, this status should encourage us to maintain the behaviours that are working to stop COVID-19 transmission," she said.

She said physical distancing measures will be required for "many months to come" before the vaccine can offer protection against wider spread of the virus.

"I'm confident that Ottawans can keep doing our best to limit close contacts to those with whom we live, stay two metres apart from other when making essential trips, wear a mask and wash our hands often," Etches said.

Asked when she thinks non-essential businesses can reopen, Etches said she couldn't offer a guess. Schools will reopen first, and health officials will wait to gauge the impact of that before ending the current lockdown, she said.