OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson is urging university and college students to behave responsibly as they return to Ottawa for the new school year, warning social gatherings could act as a "petri dish" to spread COVID-19.

"This is not the year to have keg parties with 100 of your closest friends," said Watson during an interview on CTV Morning Live.

"There's no real formal orientation or Frosh Week this year because of COVID-19, we don't want to replace that with these big street parties in Sandy Hill or old Ottawa South."

Watson adds, "We're asking students to be responsible and thoughtful and care for one another and not have these parties that spill out onto the streets and balconies and so on, that would just act as almost a petri dish for people to get COVID-19."

Both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University are limiting capacity in residence this fall in a bid to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The University of Ottawa expects 5,000 students will be attending in-person classes on campus.

Both universities will be holding orientation week activities online for students.

Speaking with CTV Morning Live host Annette Goerner Thursday morning, Watson said the city is working with Ottawa Police and Ottawa Public Health on a social media campaign to remind students this is not the year for big parties.

"I was a student at Carleton and we used to love having big keg parties on Sunnyside Avenue or in the Glebe or students that go to Ottawa U often in Sandy Hill," said Watson about the city not wanting to sound like the party police.

"But this is not the year to do this because we're still in a state of emergency and it's still a very serious health risk to do that and to spread it."

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told Council on Wednesday that the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa is stable, and no COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to restaurants, bars or gyms.

Watson tells CTV Morning Live, "We've done a relatively good job, we've seen a few peaks here and there but we're continuously working with restaurants and bars and landlords and so on to make sure we do everything we can to protect the public from this horrific virus."