OTTAWA -- An epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa suggests we "see how Stage 2 manifests first" before we look ahead to entering Stage 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan in Ottawa during the pandemic.

Ottawa and eastern Ontario entered Stage 2 of the COVID-19 reopening plan last Friday, allowing bar and restaurant patios, malls, barber shops and salons to reopen. Ontario also expanded social bubbles from five people to ten people.

On Wednesday, Ottawa Public Health reported no increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, and zero new deaths.  

Appearing on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Raywat Deonandan if Ottawa is ready to enter Stage 3, meaning more businesses can reopen and restrictions on gatherings further relaxed.

"I like to see the new cases be single digitals a week before I'm comfortable opening up more things," said Dr. Deonandan.

"Let's see how Stage 2 manifests first, let's give it a few weeks. Let's not jump the gun too soon."

Dr. Deonandan suggested health officials would look at the situation over the next two, three or four weeks before deciding the next move for reopening the economy.

"Let's enjoy the summer, Stage 2 is here. We can go out, we can have beers, we can sit on the patio, we can see our friends, we can socialize to some extent. Let's not get too greedy and push this further than it needs to go just yet!"

CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked about a possible approach to increasing restrictions if COVID-19 cases increase. Dr. Deonandan noted the purpose of the lockdown in the first place was to allow for the public health investments in the appropriate infrastructure to deal with new cases.

"I think we're doing that now. We're getting the testing and the contact tracing, the masks, the social distancing parameters all set up such that when the case numbers go up again, we know to step back just a couple of steps not the entire full way to hiding in our homes again," said Dr. Deonandan.

"If we do our jobs well over the next couple of months, then maybe we don't have to have this extreme response in the fall."

Returning to school in September

On Wednesday, an advisory group from Toronto's Sick Kids hospital released recommendations for reopening Ontario schools in September, including screening and no mandatory face mask requirement.

Dr. Deonandan said it is important to begin the discussion now on reopening schools in two and a half months.

"Given the way things are currently unfolding and the fact that we're going to have to live with this disease for several months, if not years, strategies need to be put into place now to allow schools to open safely," said Dr. Deonandan.

"So, I'm glad Sick Kids has created this document. It shows at least important people are thinking about it in a strategic manner."

Dr. Deonandan admits young children wearing masks and trying to enforce physical distancing can be difficult.

"I'm concerned more about the facilities available in the school themselves. A lot of these schools don't have more than one or two bathrooms per floor, don't have sinks in the classroom, have crowded classrooms," said Dr. Deonandan

"These can be fixed. These are things we can throw money at, that don't need behavioural changes for the children to follow."