OTTAWA -- An eastern Ontario medical officer of health is not surprised Ottawa has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases involving people under the age of 10.

And with the start of the new school year just five weeks away, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit says it's important for people of all ages to practice physical distancing while socializing now to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

"The better we control it, the closer to normal schools will start," said Dr. Roumeliotis during an interview on CTV News at Six with Stefan Keyes.

Ottawa Public Health reported Saturday that nine of the 28 new cases of COVID-19 involve children under the age of 10. Another two cases involved young people between the ages of 10 and 19.

“I’m not surprised. I’ve said it before as a paediatrician, I know that kids are very vulnerable to viruses, albeit this one we knew it would not cause significant illness to the majority of the children," said Dr. Roumeliotis Saturday evening.

"But that is one of the reasons we actually closed down schools in March because of fear of kids getting it, cause kids can have very mild symptoms but then give it to their parents and grandparents.”

Dr. Roumeliotis says as Ottawa and eastern Ontario moved into Stage 3 and more businesses reopened, more kids were going out with people to parties and other gatherings.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has seen eight people under the age of 20 test positive for COVID-19.  Another 15 people between the ages of 20 and 29 have tested positive for novel coronavirus.

Dr. Roumeliotis said he doesn’t know the specifics of the cases involving kids under 10 in Ottawa, but the cases involving young children in his region were part of "going to parties or big gatherings where they're not social distancing."

In Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health has been reminding people to be COVID-wise while socializing; including recommending people interact outdoors instead of indoors.

“We need to understand that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and we still have the virus literally in our backyard," said Dr. Roumeliotis.

"What we need to be doing is we need to be teaching kids and their parents obviously that although they can go out, go to restaurants, get together with friends, they need to socially distance.”

Dr. Roumeliotis added people may be thinking the COVID-19 situation is better now because we've moved into Stage 3, but it's up to all of us to continue to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m confident that if we do get the message out there and those young individuals and their parents, obviously, understand and grasp that the more we’re able to control the virus, the more we’re able to go back to school normally or as normal as possible in the fall, the better we’ll be able to tolerate the next wave.”

Back to school

The Ontario Government will announce next week the plans for the new school year in September. School boards were directed to prepare for three scenarios: Full-time in class, a hybrid model of in-class and online learning and online learning.

CTV News at Six anchor Stefan Keyes asked Dr. Roumelitios about the spike in cases involving children as officials reopen schools and day cares.

“It’s always been concerning. Schools have been concerning because it’s harder to control infection control and the other precautions. The scenario in the school setting or in a day care setting or a day camp where all the precautions are in place to me seems to be a bit more easier to control than a party that is out of control,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to have the safe-guards in the schools or in the day cares or the day camps that we’re seeing right now. Some people there are monitoring the situation."

Dr. Roumeliotis said a school setting could be different than a private party where some of the new cases have been linked to.

"What’s going on is that these are private parties where they’re not going into restaurants or bars or anything like that. Most of them are private parties with nobody monitoring them," said Dr. Roumeliotis looking ahead to possibly reopening schools.

"I am optimistic that if we collectively do what we need to be doing, we’ll be able to with those precautions be able to really, really prevent the infections and have those measures observed and reminded in those school settings.”

Dr. Roumeliotis says he's optimistic about being able to open schools in September, but the numbers could change as summer continues.

“The better we control it; the closer to normal schools will start.”