OTTAWA -- Ottawa Public Health is following up with 1,500 people who may have been in close contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches provided an update on the novel coronavirus situation in Ottawa during Wednesday’s Council meeting.

Ottawa Public Health says it is investigating 43 confirmed and indeterminate cases (awaiting final test results) of COVID-19 in the community. No new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced by Ontario’s Ministry of Health on Wednesday.

Ottawa Public Health has said there is lab confirmation of community transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa. 

Dr. Etches says when Ottawa Public Health identifies a case of COVID-19 in the community, “we ask that person about all of their activities, and who might be a close contact to that case.”

There is a team of 60 people at Ottawa Public Health doing contact tracing for each positive and indeterminate case of COVID-19.

“They have followed up with more than 1,500 people. The average number of contacts for one case is 16,” said Dr. Etches, adding the goal is to reduce the number of close contacts for each positive case.

“We’re trying to make sure that If somebody is infected, the number of people that they’re in contact with is not 16. It’s as few as possible.”

Dr. Etches told Councillors that Ottawa Public Health is looking for ways to increase staff capacity to focus on contact tracking.  

The Ottawa Public Health phone line has received 12,000 calls related to COVID-19.

Tip of the Iceberg

Dr. Etches told Council that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa is the “tip of the iceberg.”

“We know there are other people to think about: those who have been tested and are awaiting results are much greater in number; Those who have symptoms and have been recommended they get testing is a greater number; Those who have symptoms and who are not presenting for testing or who are not in the category where testing is recommended is a larger number, and we know the actual rate of infection is even greater in our community.”

The Medical Officer of Health said on Sunday there were up to 4,000 cases of novel coronavirus in Ottawa.

Physical Distancing

Dr. Etches told Council that “this is the time to have strong physical distancing from others. It will make a difference.”

Ottawa Public Health will continue to assess and promote compliance with calls for physical distancing in the community.