Ottawa's medical officer of health says it's necessary for the city to move into the red zone as the rise in COVID levels has been rapidly accelerating and is getting out of control.
The city will move into the red control zone under the province's colour-coded pandemic scale at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.
"At this point, we still have to keep control on the level of COVID in our community and it's getting out of control with the rise that we see," Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, told a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The city's key COVID-19 indicators passed the threshold and have been firmly in red-zone territory for days.
The number of people testing positive for the illness is now at 49.1 per 100,000 population — the threshold is 40 — and continues to climb, said Etches.
The positivity rate now sits at 2.7 per cent — the threshold is 2.5 per cent — and Etches said wastewater data is at peak levels last seen in October and January, when more restrictions were in place across the city.
Etches said hospitals are also at or over capacity, and the number of variants of concern are growing "exponentially," which has led to the closure of some schools.
Vaccinations still low
One worrying trend Etches mentioned is the number of people in their 50s being hospitalized — an age group that isn't eligible to be vaccinated for months.
They've made up a quarter of all COVID-19-related hospitalizations since December, she said.
As of Thursday, the number of people in hospital was 21, including six in the ICU.
We've seen before in Ottawa, that earlier intervention helps us keep the curve lower and helps us turn the curve. - Er. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health
Ottawa's immunization campaign has been ramping up recently, but only 30 per cent of people over age 80 in the community have been vaccinated.
"I must caution that we are still months away from protecting the majority of older adults and other populations at risk for hospitalization and death," she said.
"At this point, we still have to keep control on the level of COVID in our community and it's getting out of control with the rise that we see."
Once more people are vaccinated, Etches said, the situation will improve, and even though Ottawa is moving into the red zone, it doesn't mean an eventual move into a lockdown.
"It's not inevitable. Absolutely not. We do not have to get into grey territory," she said. "We've seen before in Ottawa, that earlier intervention helps us keep the curve lower and helps us turn the curve."