OTTAWA -- In addition to the total case count, another figure health officials are watching closely is the rapid increase of COVID-19 related hospitalizations.

“This is a call to arms if you will,” said University Health Network Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy.

In the past two weeks, the number of people hospitalized in Ottawa and across the province has more than doubled.

In Ottawa Tuesday, 48 people are in the hospital compared to 17 on Oct. 1.

10 people are in the ICU, up seven from Oct. 1.

The number of people in the hospital in Ottawa is now at its highest level since May, during the first wave of the pandemic.

“They are becoming critically ill, and the situation is likely to get much, much worse before it gets better,” said Dr. Sharkawy.

The Ontario Hospital Association says that although new measures have been brought in for hotspots like Ottawa, more are likely going to be needed in the coming weeks.

“We’ll definitely have to take more steps in my opinion in the weeks ahead to help hospitals absorb this wave of patients,” said Anthony Dale, the president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association.

“The real hidden risk here is that we start to see widespread cancellations of those lifesaving surgeries that people who have cancer or heart disease desperately need,” Dale said.

Dr. Sharkawy says getting remembering the basics—like wearing masks, distancing and not gathering indoors—could help turn things around but it will take time and there’s another threat.

“The big wildcard here is the fact that we’ve got flu season that’s about to hit,” said Dr. Sharkawy. “We need to do everything we can to avoid flu season and COVID-19 riding on each other’s backs because that could spell real catastrophe for our health care system and community.”