OTTAWA -- As Ottawa deals with a spike in COVID-19 cases, Ottawa's medical officer of health is encouraging everyone to "get back to basics" to help limit the spread of novel coronavirus in Ottawa.

Ottawa has seen 13 straight days of double-digit increases in COVID-19 cases, including 15 cases on Thursday. There have been 402 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa in July, compared to 132 cases in June.

"We had anticipated an increase in cases as a result of opening businesses and other sectors of the economy, but these numbers are concerning," said Dr. Vera Etches on Thursday afternoon.  

"They don’t appear to be linked to the implementation of Stage 2 and Stage 3; rather what we're seeing is primarily linked to our social behaviours and indoor gatherings."

Dr. Etches told reporters that all age groups under the age of 80 have seen a five-fold increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of July.

Ottawa moved into Stage 3 of Ontario's COVID-19 reopening plan on July 17, including allowing dine-in at restaurants, and gyms and movie theatres to open. Restaurant and bar patios and malls reopened as part of Stage 2 in June.

"Today, I'm asking people to get back to the basics," said Dr. Etches, noting Ottawa residents know what to do to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

"As we go about doing some things, practice physical distancing; please stay home when you're sick; always wear a mask inside while in public spaces and even outdoors when physical distancing is difficult; don't forget to wash your hands; avoid touching your face. We've flattened the curve before, and I know Ottawa has what it takes to do it again."

Dr. Etches says the number of new cases Ottawa has seen over the past week is the result of actions and decisions made two or more weeks ago.

"So today, I'm asking people to look ahead two weeks and challenge yourselves, think about how we can have a better picture two weeks from now," said Dr. Etches.

"This is the time where we're wanting to aim towards zero (new cases), so let's change that trajectory together."

This week, Ottawa Public Health reported a teenager has been admitted to the ICU at CHEO to be treated for COVID-19.  It's the first minor to be admitted to hospital in Ottawa with COVID-19.

Dr. Etches admitted she's concerned about the spike in cases involving young people, and how it's linked to the rise in cases overall in Ottawa.

“That doubling of cases cannot continue. That will take us into territory that’s going to overwhelm our health care system and going to result in outbreaks in schools, daycares, long-term care homes. I’m concerned," said Dr. Etches.

"I do want to send a message to the public that we need to change that trajectory again with our behaviour, all of us.”

Socializing safely

Ahead of the long weekend, Dr. Etches addressed the importance of socializing safely with family and friends.

"COVID-19 still in our community and across all neighbourhoods, all age groups. This recent uptick in cases is a clear reminder of what can happen if we let our guard down, especially when visiting with friends and family," said Dr. Etches.

"Being with loved ones feels good, it provides comfort, it makes it easier for us to let our guard down, but we need to protect those that are close to us in the same way we'd protect that stranger in the grocery store. It's maintaining that two-metre distance and wearing a mask when we're indoors."

Ontario COVID-19 rules allows for social gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, as long as physical distancing measures are in place. Your social bubble is up to 10 people, where physical distancing is not required.

Ottawa Public Health issued a note about social circles vs. social gatherings:

Social circles

  • No distancing needed within the social circle
  • Involves your household and selected other people who do not join other circles
  • Maximum 10 people

Social gatherings

  • Needs proper two metre distancing and masks indoors and outdoors (when distancing can't be maintained)
  • Maximum 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors