Ottawa officials see COVID-19 cases from ignoring health precautions

·3 min read
Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa's deputy medical officer of health, says case numbers have creeped up as people let their guard down on COVID-19 protocols. (City of Ottawa/Zoom - image credit)
Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa's deputy medical officer of health, says case numbers have creeped up as people let their guard down on COVID-19 protocols. (City of Ottawa/Zoom - image credit)

As the weather gets cooler and wetter, driving more people indoors, Ottawa's deputy medical officer of health is reminding residents we can't slack off when it comes to taking COVID-19 precautions.

"Let me be clear: the pandemic is not over," Dr. Brent Moloughney told reporters Thursday.

Moloughney, the second-in-command at Ottawa Public Health (OPH), said there's evidence COVID-19 is spreading because people are not wearing masks, failing to properly distance, and not staying home when they're sick.

"As more restrictions are gradually lifted, it may be tempting to let our guards down," Moloughney said.

"We're seeing evidence of this particularly in workplaces, sports settings and social gatherings."

Moloughney pointed to the example OPH tweeted yesterday where a single sporting event, and a later social gathering, resulted in at least 26 people testing positive with almost 500 contacts at risk of being infected.

No big bump in cases from Thanksgiving

The doctor was careful not to sound alarmist. He said Ottawa has a high vaccination rate — 90 per cent of eligible people have had at least one dose of the vaccine — and the total of known active cases continues to sit just north of 200.

Unlike previous holiday weekends, the Thanksgiving long weekend did not result in a big bump in cases — but it did "blip up" a bit, he said. The positivity rate also began to flatten after weeks of decline.

Moloughney said we need to be a bit more vigilant now in order to have more freedoms later. He pointed out the government timelines for reopening are contingent on no resurgence of cases, adding European countries that lifted all their restrictions at once are now seeing a spike in COVID-19.

"I don't think it's so much around further restrictions, I think it's more for people's awareness," he said.

We can do more things, but not anything and everything. - Dr. Brent Moloughney, Deputy Medical Officer of Health

The vaccine continues to be a key factor in ending the pandemic, officials say, and the 26 people who tested positive from that single sporting event weren't vaccinated, even though they were eligible. Fully vaccinated people can also become infected, although their symptoms — if they have any — are generally milder, and people are less infectious and for a shorter period of time.

If you're ill, stay home and get tested

They can still pass the virus onto others, in particular children born in 2010 or later who aren't vaccinated. That not only causes others to be sick, but can also be very disruptive to schools, workplaces and homes.

That's why Moloughney implores people who feel unwell to stay home and get tested.

"I've heard it socially, people saying, 'Oh, it's just a cold' — and we still can't do that," he said. "If you have a sore throat or a runny nose, that could be COVID."

After more than 19 months of dealing with the pandemic, Moloughney said he does understand it could be "psychologically desirable" to push any pandemic news aside right now, but it's "important to remind people, we can do more things, but not anything and everything."

As people start to socialize more indoors, including this weekend for Halloween, Moloughney says gatherings should be kept small and among those who are fully vaccinated. Those who are not fully vaccinated should wear masks and keep their distance, while people might consider opening windows for more ventilation.

He said trick-or-treating can be done safely, as long as children and parents wear masks — as well as those handing out the treats, if they can't physically distance — and people should use tongs to distribute candy bars and lollipops, not their hands.

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