Flu and RSV levels remain high in Ottawa as CHEO manages patient load

People wearing masks walk by Parliament Hill in Ottawa in November 2020. Health officials in the area recommend wearing masks in crowded places.  (Mathieu Theriault/CBC - image credit)
People wearing masks walk by Parliament Hill in Ottawa in November 2020. Health officials in the area recommend wearing masks in crowded places. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Ottawa's COVID-19 trends are generally stable.

  • Its flu and RSV levels are high.

  • Quebec recommends wearing masks in public.

  • Eastern Ontario 16- and 17-year-olds are being sent to adult hospitals.

The latest guidance

Officials in Ontario and Quebec say the health-care system, particularly for children, is under extraordinary pressure because of COVID-19, early flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) seasons, and a medication shortage.

Quebec's health minister has joined others strongly recommending people wear masks indoors. 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 vulnerable people safe.

Eastern Ontario is now sending 16- and 17-year-olds to adult hospitals first. This happened in the past on a case-by-case basis.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said Thursday that flu and RSV levels are high, but COVID levels aren't.

Ontario and Quebec flu test positivity is increasing and RSV positivity has plateaued. There are some early positive signs in Ontario that the pressure from sick children could be easing.

Tests, outbreaks and deaths

Testing strategies changed under the Omicron variant, meaning many COVID-19 cases aren't reflected in counts. Public health officials now only track and report outbreaks in health-care settings.

There are 40 active COVID outbreaks in Ottawa. This is moderate, according to OPH, and has been slowly dropping.

It reports one flu outbreak in a retirement home and 39 "other" respiratory outbreaks, nearly all in child-care settings, which is a rising statistic.

Ottawa's COVID test positivity rate is 13 per cent. It had dropped since the end of October to a low of of 12 per cent Tuesday.

OPH reported 110 more COVID cases over three days and five deaths of people with COVID. A total of 961 Ottawa residents who had COVID have died, 351 of them this year.

Wastewater

The weekly average level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater is now moderate, according to OPH.

While the research team hasn't updated its page, OPH says as of Nov. 15 the average has been generally stable for five days after dropping for most of the month.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

The research team also shares flu and RSV levels in wastewater.

Hospitals

OPH's count of active, local COVID-19 hospital patients drops to 12 in Friday's update. There is one patient in intensive care, which is also a stable number.

The health unit cautions that changes it's making to its data system may affect the hospitalization count, which had a sharp drop around the start of the month.

For example, the hospitalization count was 29 on the main page of the dashboard update on Nov. 8. The count under another tab, which is constantly updated as new paperwork comes in, had 44 patients that day.

There is another count that includes other patients, such as people admitted for other reasons who then test positive for COVID-19, those admitted for lingering COVID-19 complications, and those transferred from other health units.

That number dropped Friday, going back to where it was in early October.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

Vaccines

As of the most recent weekly update, 93 per cent of Ottawa residents aged five and up had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 90 per cent had at least two and 61 per cent at least three.

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

About 8,600 residents younger than five have had a first dose, which is about 19 per cent of Ottawa's population of that age group. About 3,000, or six per cent, have had two.

Across the region

Spread

Wastewater trends are stable in Kingston, low and stable in Cornwall and Hawkesbury and rising in Casselman.

Data from other areas is out of date or unavailable.

The average COVID test positivity in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit rises to a high 19 per cent.

Hospitalizations and deaths

Western Quebec's health authority, CISSSO, reports a stable 76 COVID hospitalizations. One of the patients is in intensive care.

Eastern Ontario communities outside Ottawa are reporting about 60 COVID hospitalizations, nine of them in intensive care. About half are in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health.

Renfrew County hasn't yet given its weekly update, which usually comes on Thursdays.

That regional count doesn't include Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) Public Health, which has a different counting method. Its count dropped below 20 Tuesday for the first time since August.

CISSSO reported three more COVID deaths in its weekly update, meaning 137 of its 360 deaths have been reported in 2022.

Each local health unit, except Ottawa, has had more reported COVID deaths in 2022 than either 2020 or 2021. Nationally, people dying of COVID in the later months of 2022 have generally been older, living with pre-existing conditions, or undergoing immune-suppressing treatments.

Vaccines

Across eastern Ontario, between 81 and 92 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.

Local residents have now received more than six million vaccine doses combined.