OTTAWA -- As Ottawa continues to see a spike in COVID-19 cases, Ottawa's top doctor says Ottawa Public Health has found no COVID-19 outbreaks linked to restaurants, bars, gyms and riding on OC Transpo buses and trains.

During a presentation to Council, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said close household contacts with confirmed cases of COVID-19 is the biggest risk factor for COVID-19 transmission in August.

"I think on a whole, is where people come within two metres of others without masks being used," said Dr. Etches Wednesday morning about the risk factors for COVID-19 transmission.

"We are not seeing outbreaks in settings where people are wearing masks."

Dr. Etches told Council that while outbreaks were the number one source of transmission for COVID-19 since the start of pandemic in mid-March, close contacts with confirmed cases in the household has become the main transmission source of COVID-19 in August.

"The biggest risk factor for people is the close contacts that we have," said Dr. Etches.

"That's all of us. It is hard because this virus isn't visible, it's not always giving people significant symptoms and people can be infectious 48 hours before they're sick. By the time one person with symptoms gets tested, others in the household may well have been exposed."

There have been 332 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since Aug. 1, including 16 new cases on Wednesday.

A presentation for Council showed the main source of COVID-19 in Ottawa this month is "household contacts."

Since Aug. 1, Ottawa Public Health says 57 per cent of COVID-19 cases for residents between 10 and 19 years old and 44.6 per cent of COVID cases for residents ages 20 to 29 are linked to close contact with a confirmed case.

Ottawa Public Health


Ottawa Public Health reports 40 per cent of all COVID-19 cases for residents ages 30 to 49 in August are linked to household contacts. 

Dr. Etches says Ottawa Public Health is still investigating all cases in August, including the transmission source.

"We're not seeing outbreaks play the same role in people being exposed to the virus and picking it up."

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Dr. Etches said a majority of the cases of COVID-19 were linked to COVID-19 household contacts and outbreaks, including in long-term care homes and retirement homes.

COVID-19 in Ottawa

Councillor Catherine McKenney asked Dr. Etches if Ottawa Public Health can provide more information on where COVID-19 transmission has been linked to.

"What we have not seen, is we have not found an outbreak in a restaurant, we have not found an outbreak in a bar," said Dr. Etches.

"There was a case related to an employee in a gym, but we have not had an outbreak in a gym. We have not linked transmission to a rider on an OC Transpo service; we are working of course with OC Transpo on the drivers."

During a media availability after the Council meeting, Dr. Etches was asked if Ottawa Public Health knows why there has been no COVID-19 transmission in gyms, bars and restaurants or if people don't know where they're contracting novel coronavirus while in those settings. 

"We know that we aren't picking up every person who's infected with COVID-19 because not everyone realizes they're sick enough that it's warranted to go for a test," said Dr. Etches.

"I would say there is a possibility that our data just isn't showing some of the links that are happening in these places. It is encouraging that of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19, we haven't been able to link that to transmission in a bar, a restaurant or a gym."

Dr. Etches warns that bars, restaurants and gyms are "high risk settings" for COVID-19 transmission.

"So the opportunity is there if people aren't following the measures that we've put in place to do things differently in those venues. Stay seated, to wear a mask when you're not eating or drinking – these things do make a difference."