OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s medical officer of health is encouraging Ottawa residents to focus on staying safe while learning to live with COVID-19 in the community.

Dr. Vera Etches told Council there’s a lot of “positive trends” about COVID-19 in the community, including decreasing infections in the community and long-term care homes, retirement homes and institutions.

Dr. Etches says there is now less of a focus on the message of “just stay home” to limit the spread of novel coronavirus. Instead, health officials are encouraging people to stay safe as the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.

 “We have a small margin of safety,” Dr. Etches told Council on Wednesday morning.

“We’re not saying just stay home anymore, people are starting to go about work, which is very important, they’re starting to access services. We want people to do that in a smart way.”

Dr. Etches urges people to engage in “smart distancing” and “lower risk activities,” including staying two metres apart from others and wearing a face mask when physical distancing is not possible.

“We need to learn to live with this virus and I see great examples of that. People are keeping their distance from another, businesses are innovating.”

Ottawa Public Health offers tips for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission – with “Safer Options”, activities to “Use Caution” and activities that are the “Least Safe Options.”

Ottawa Public Health

Get tested

Ottawa Public Health is urging people to get tested as soon as they develop symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr. Etches says data shows less than 50 per cent of people with symptoms of COVID-19 are presenting for testing within two days.

“If people are feeling unwell - with a fever, cough, a sore throat, something that could be COVID, please present for testing as soon as possible because that allows us to make sure the right measures are in place to contain that infection.”

Cases of COVID-19 dropping

The medical officer of health told Council there is “good news” about the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa.

“The number of cases we’re detecting both in institutions and the community continues to drop,” said Dr. Etches.

“Also, the percentage of cases that we can’t link to a known exposure is dropping.”

Data complied by CTV News Ottawa shows the number of active cases have been steadily declining in May to levels last seen in March. 

Dr. Etches says there is currently 20 outbreaks in long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals and group homes, and they continue to be resolved.

For each confirmed case of COVID-19, Ottawa Public Health has identified an average of 5.3 contacts with that case.