OTTAWA -- As Ontario reports its highest number of COVID-19 cases in a month, an infectious disease specialist warns "no one is absolutely invincible" to COVID-19 and everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves and others.

And Dr. Abdu Sharkawy says we will need to learn to live with COVID-19, because "this disease is not going away very quickly."

Ontario's Ministry of Health reported 148 new COVID-19 infections across the province on Saturday, the highest number since July 24.  

In Ottawa, there were 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. It is the sixth straight day with a double-digit increase in cases in the capital.

Appearing on CTV News at Six, anchor Christina Succi asked CTV News infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy about concerns with the uptick in COVID-19 cases at the end of summer, especially in young people.

"Unfortunately, this has really been a common theme that has been present pretty much since the end of May. I suspect part of it is due to a bit of what we call caution fatigue," said Dr. Sharkawy Saturday evening.

"I think young people, in particular, were fairly disproportionately affected by this pandemic, a lot of them lost their jobs. I think by nature they are more social in terms of their communicating with one another and they are trying to sort of renew some of that. Unfortunately, because of that we're seeing a little bit of lapse in terms of masking, and distancing and not meeting indoors with people who are not part of your immediate social circle or bubble."

Dr. Sharkawy says with school fast approaching, public health officials need to use targeted messaging to address the importance of social distancing, wearing a mask and limiting social contacts for young people.

"What we really want to avoid is this group becoming a reservoir sort of speak for an increasing number of cases," said Dr. Sharkawy about the importance of young people following COVID-19 guidelines.

"As school opens up and we approach flu season, the elderly portion of our population and those with compromised immunity they're the ones that are really going to be at risk mostly if young people asymptomatically spread this infection to them."

Dr. Sharkawy says while young people haven't been affected as severely by COVID-19 compared to other age groups, there have been deaths among young people reported around the world.

"No one is absolutely invincible when it comes to this virus, and it's in all of our best interest to just take accountability both for ourselves and everyone around us to prevent being infected in the first place."

Ten of the 20 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Ottawa on Saturday involve residents under the age of 30.

Since Aug. 1, Ottawa Public Health has reported 40 cases of COVID-19 involving residents under the age of 10, 67 cases involving residents between the ages of 10 and 19 and 101 cases involving residents between the ages of 20 and 29.

COVID-19 is not a seasonal phenomenon

CTV News at Six anchor Christina Succi asked Dr. Sharkawy whether residents of Ottawa and Ontario must learn to live with COVID-19.

"There's no question about it, this disease is not going away very quickly. It's not going to be a seasonal phenomenon," said Dr. Sharkawy.

"We're a long way away from a vaccine that's going to be widely available to everyone, and herd immunity isn't happening – we've got clear evidence of that all over the world after the pandemic was controlled in many places, its resurfaced again."

The CTV News infectious disease specialist says it is important for residents of all ages to continue to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing a mask indoors and limiting social contacts.

"We're going to have to learn to live with this. The good news is if we distance, we mask, we use proper hand-hygiene and common sense, we'll actually prevent all kinds of transmissible diseases, including the flu."