COVID-19 test positivity, hospitalizations rise along with wastewater

Vehicles drive along the Rideau Canal near Parliament Hill Dec. 20, 2022 in Ottawa. About a week later, COVID-19 tests such as test positivity, hospitalizations and wastewater levels started to rise. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Vehicles drive along the Rideau Canal near Parliament Hill Dec. 20, 2022 in Ottawa. About a week later, COVID-19 tests such as test positivity, hospitalizations and wastewater levels started to rise. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Ottawa's coronavirus wastewater level is higher than the previous two Januaries.

  • Its COVID-19 test positivity rate and one hospital count are rising.

  • Six more COVID deaths were reported in the region.

  • The Kingston area health unit talks more about its record test positivity.

The latest guidance

Local officials are watching the city's respiratory illness trends after the holidays, with some key ones rising in late December.

The health-care system, particularly for children, has been under a lot of pressure because of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), resulting in long wait times and unprecedented moves to try to cope.

Experts strongly recommend people wear masks indoors and, in Ontario, in the days after having COVID symptoms.

Staying home when sick, keeping hands and surfaces clean and keeping up-to-date with COVID and flu vaccines are also recommended to help keep people safe, especially more vulnerable people including children.

CBC Ottawa takes a look at COVID trends on Tuesdays and Fridays. A broader look at respiratory illnesses comes on Wednesdays: Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says flu activity is considered stable while other respiratory illness activity, including COVID, is rising.

Wastewater

Data from the research team says the weekly average level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater, as of Jan. 2, had been rising since the last week of November and rising faster still for the most recent week.

It's back to where it was around the start of August 2022 and higher than it reached in January 2021 or 2022, when there were more rules in place. The daily reading on Jan. 2 is the highest in more than five months.

OPH considers this level to be very high.

613covid.ca
613covid.ca

Hospitals

OPH's count of active, local COVID-19 hospital patients rises to 35, according to Tuesday's update, with one patient in intensive care.

There is another count that includes other patients, such as people admitted for other reasons who then test positive for COVID, those admitted for lingering COVID complications, and those transferred from other health units.

That number has been dropping and is more recently stable.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

Tests, outbreaks and deaths

Ottawa's COVID-19 test positivity rate rises to around 19 per cent. OPH considers this high. Testing strategies changed at the end of 2021 and many cases aren't reflected in counts.

There are 36 active COVID outbreaks in Ottawa, two fewer than Tuesday. This count has been stable for about a week.

OPH reported 213 more COVID cases over three days and the deaths of four people who had COVID: three of them in their 80s and one in their 70s. In all, 990 Ottawa residents who had COVID have died since the start of the pandemic.

Vaccines

Thirty-five per cent of Ottawans age 12 and older have had their most recent dose within the last six months, as is generally recommended, with older age groups having higher rates.

This does not factor in immunity from getting COVID.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

As of the most recent weekly update, 93 per cent of Ottawa residents aged five and up had at least one COVID vaccine dose, 90 per cent had at least two and 62 per cent at least three.

Thirty-six per cent of Ottawans aged 12 and older had at least four doses.

About 9,450 residents younger than five have had a first dose, which is about 21 per cent of Ottawa's population of that age group. About 4,900, or 11 per cent, have had two.

Across the region

Spread

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU)'s average COVID test positivity rose to 16 per cent in its first updates of 2023. Renfrew County's positivity is stable around seven per cent.

The Kingston area's medical officer of health told CBC Wednesday its record-high test positivity average around 25 per cent came from a smaller sample that was only from health-care settings.

Its respiratory hospitalizations had been stable, said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, and he was waiting for more recent wastewater data.

Coronavirus wastewater data averages outside Ottawa are out of date or unavailable coming out of the holidays.

Hospitalizations and deaths

Eastern Ontario communities outside Ottawa report about 35 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with the three patients in intensive care all in the EOHU.

That regional count doesn't include Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) Public Health, which has a different counting method. Its hospitalizations have been low and stable since late November,

Western Quebec's health authority, CISSSO, reports a stable 86 COVID hospitalizations. None of the patients are in intensive care.

The EOHU reported two more COVID deaths for a total of 279. CISSSO and Renfrew County's health unit didn't report any more deaths.

2022 was by far the deadliest year for reported COVID fatalities in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Vaccines

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health says that 33 per cent of its population age five and up have had a booster vaccine in the last six months. That number is 27 per cent in HPE and unavailable elsewhere.

Across eastern Ontario, between 82 and 93 per cent of residents age five and up have received at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and between 53 and 65 per cent of those residents have had at least three.