Ottawa's medical officer of health "absolutely" supports the province's decision to close down bars, restaurants, gyms and theatres for 28 days, in light of the fact that the capital currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the province.
During an hours-long coronavirus update Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches reminded Ottawa city council that two weeks ago, she asked people to go to bars and restaurants only with members of their households.
"That was something that I was advocating for two weeks ago because of the harm potentially to businesses," said Etches. "The situation hasn't got any better over those two weeks. It's gotten worse, and it's getting worse faster, and I absolutely support the provincial decision to close bars and restaurants and gyms where there's close contact."
As of last Friday, the city had 62 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, while Toronto had 59 cases per 100,000, making Ottawa the city with the highest rate of infection, according to the province.
Hospitalizations have doubled in less than three weeks, while a study of wastewater shows that the virus in the community is growing "exponentially."
Businesses demand evidence
Small businesses in Ottawa have called on the province to provide more evidence for why it shut down bars, restaurants, gyms and theatres in this city, when there have been no declared outbreaks in those sectors.
However, Etches said Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has seen "transmission within social groups that have used restaurants" and "clear transmission among employees within restaurants."
She said the fact that there have been no official outbreaks, defined as two or more linked, lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases within a workplace, doesn't necessarily mean transmission isn't occurring in those venues. She said while it's likely not the fault of the businesses themselves, those are places where people from different households are nevertheless mixing, increasing the likelihood of transmission.
Coun. Eli El-Chantiry moved a motion Wednesday to support a plea from local businesses for a justification from the province for the closures put in place last Friday. The motion was adopted unanimously.
However, Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod, the minister of heritage, sports, tourism and culture industries, told reporters Wednesday morning that the province would not be reversing the closures.