Mayor urges calm after Ottawa's first coronavirus case
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's first case of coronavirus is a man in his 40s who travelled to Austria and experienced mild symptoms upon his return.
The man is taking advice from public health authorities and is self-isolating at home, officials said at a news conference Wednesday.
“The individual has been conscientious about his self-isolation,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said, adding that Ottawa Public Health is conducting follow-up with any possible close contacts.
Etches said the man was asymptomatic during his flights to Ottawa, meaning there’s no risk to any other passengers. He attended the Ottawa Hospital when he started feeling unwell, and officials received news Wednesday of the positive test for COVID-19.
Officials believe he has not taken public transit since his return.
Ciena confirms one of its employees in Ottawa has "tested positive for the coronavirus" after recently travelling overseas for vacation. All 1,700 employees at the Ciena campus in Ottawa have been asked to work from home until March 17.
Ontario now has 41 positive cases of the virus, five of which have been resolved.
Austria had 182 cases of the virus as of Monday, according to the World Health Organization. The country shares a border with Italy, which is on total lockdown in an attempt to contain the virus.
Mayor Jim Watson urged residents to remain calm.
“Today’s developments will be worrisome to all residents,” he said. “I would, however…urge people to remain calm and follow the sound advice of the Ottawa Public Health unit.”
Watson said the city entered into ‘active operations’ Wednesday, meaning the emergency operations centre is now open at city hall.
New ‘community assessment centres’ are being planned to increase capacity for testing for the virus outside of hospitals. The first of those centres is scheduled to open next week; their locations are to be determined.
“We are looking to detect every case that is a result of travel into Ottawa, so we are asking people who travel outside of the country to monitor for symptoms when they return, and to call public health if they experience symptoms,” she said.
Etches had said for weeks that it was a matter of time before Ottawa received its first case of the virus, and the work of public health officials does not change with Wednesday’s news.
“We’ve been treating this as a pandemic…and supporting residents and partners to prepare for escalating circumstances,” she said.
Etches said there have been more than 150 negative tests for COVID-19 in Ottawa. She said as the virus spreads, the agency has ramped up the number of nurses answering phone calls. On Tuesday they received close to 200 calls, she said.
“I know anxiety levels can be high, and we need to help each other with seeking accurate information.”
Etches also said as of Wednesday, tests in Ottawa can be sent to the local public health lab instead of being transported to Toronto. That makes for a turnaround time of about six hours until results are known.
To reduce the spread of germs, Ottawa Public Health recommends the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just cleaned your hands
- Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or into your arm, not your hand
- If possible, stay home if you are sick
- Avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick
- Get your flu shot if you haven’t already