Ottawa reaches grim milestone with 1,000th COVID death

Downtown Ottawa, including Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial, as seen in a drone photo in mid-December. (Michel Aspirot & Félix Desroches/CBC - image credit)
Downtown Ottawa, including Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial, as seen in a drone photo in mid-December. (Michel Aspirot & Félix Desroches/CBC - image credit)

Recent developments:

  • Ottawa's COVID-19 levels are high and its trends are mixed.

  • The city has reached 1,000 deaths of people with COVID-19.

  • Someone age 10 to 19 who had COVID has died.

  • Coronavirus levels are high in Kingston's wastewater.

  • Half of the EOHU doesn't have enough vaccine protection, its top doctor says.

The latest guidance

Ottawa's medical officer of health and the city's health unit say there's been a concerning increase of COVID-19 as high levels of respiratory viruses spread in the city and officials try to battle nonchalance around masking.

Dr. Vera Etches told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Thursday she wants to find a way to counter the fact fewer people wear masks and the false sense that COVID is "not a serious illness for people."

"Many people will get through this at home … but [for] older adults, people with underlying conditions, this is a leading cause of death in our community still. We need to see behaviour adjust to the level of COVID in our community."

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.

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.

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, such as RSV, is decreasing.

Wastewater

Data from the research team says the weekly average level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater, as of Jan. 10, had been rising since the last week of November, and the pace of that rise has sped up since the last week of December.

More recently, it then declined for two days.

The COVID levels have only been higher three previous times, though wastewater data does not exist for the first wave of the pandemic.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) considers the current level to be very high.

613covid.ca
613covid.ca

Hospitals

OPH's count of active, local COVID-19 hospital patients is down to 26, according to Friday's update, with four patients in intensive care.

The hospital number generally rose this month before this drop. The ICU number rises, though it hasn't been more than five in several months.

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 drops from where it was the last few updates.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

Tests, outbreaks and deaths

Ottawa's COVID-19 test positivity rate remains around 18 per cent. It has generally been rising this month and OPH considers this very high. Testing strategies changed at the end of 2021 and many cases aren't reflected in counts.

There are 29 active COVID outbreaks in Ottawa. This count has been stable this month and it is considered very high.

OPH reported 159 more COVID cases over three days and the deaths of six people who had COVID: one of them age 90 or above, two in their 80s, two in their 60s, and the city's first reported COVID death of someone who is between 10 to 19 years old.

In all, 1,000 Ottawa residents who had COVID have died since the start of the pandemic. Victims are included in the total whether COVID was a factor in their death or not.

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 9,550 residents younger than five have had a first dose, which is about 21 per cent of Ottawa's population of that age group. About 5,050, or 11 per cent, have had two.

Across the region

Spread

The coronavirus wastewater average in Kingston is slowly rising and near its highest average on record, which goes back to November 2021. Data for other areas outside Ottawa is out of date or unavailable.

The average COVID test positivity rises to 15 per cent in Renfrew County, about where it was at the start of December.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) said Wednesday that COVID levels there are moderate after a small holiday uptick, adding that half of its population doesn't have adequate COVID vaccine protection.

"If you talk about what the threats are over the next couple of months, the most important thing we can do is to get our bivalent booster," he said, going on to say the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant is one threat.

WATCH | The medical officer of health's weekly update:

Hospitalizations and deaths

Eastern Ontario communities outside Ottawa report about 45 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with eight patients in intensive care. Both are higher than they were last week.

That regional count doesn't include Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) Public Health, which has a different counting method. It has at least 10 local COVID hospitalizations for the first time in about two months.

Western Quebec's health authority, CISSSO, reports a rise to 98 COVID hospitalizations. That number has been around that number since December. One of the patients is in intensive care.

CISSSO reported one more COVID death in the past week for a total of 368.

Vaccines

The Kingston area's health unit 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 66 per cent of those residents have had at least three.