Ottawa, Ontario looking at 'sustainable measures' to reopen businesses, reduce COVID-19 transmission: Dr. Etches
OTTAWA -- While new data suggests bars and restaurants are only responsible for two per cent of Ottawa's COVID-19 outbreaks, the top doctor says COVID-19 transmission is still happening in those settings.
And three weeks after Ottawa was moved into a modified Stage 2, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says new "sustainable measures" for bars, restaurants, fitness centres, gyms, movie theatres and other settings will be announced "early next week."
The Science Advisory and Modelling Consensus Tables released data on Thursday showing there has been three outbreaks in bars and restaurants in Ottawa since Aug. 1, compared to 63 in long-term care homes and retirement homes and 74 outbreaks in schools and daycares.
In Toronto, there have been 27 outbreaks in restaurants, bars and clubs over the past three months, accounting for 14 per cent of all outbreaks.
"The outbreaks in Ottawa were low in number compared to restaurants and bars, but it doesn't mean that transmission isn't happening in those settings," said Dr. Vera Etches during an interview on CTV Morning Live.
The medical officer of health adds the data on outbreaks is not the full picture of COVID-19 transmission in bars and restaurants in Ottawa.
"We have many different examples where employees have tested positive, people who have gone to restaurants with their social groups have tested positive, people have been in restaurants while they've been infectious,” said Dr. Etches.
“Eight per cent are reporting in that 14 days before they got a COVID virus test that was positive, that they were in those environments. So the outbreak numbers aren't the whole picture."
The Ontario Government moved Ottawa into a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10, with new restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centres, and movie theatres for at least 28 days. The restrictions included no indoor dining at bars and restaurants, and the closure of all gyms and fitness centres.
In a statement late Friday morning, Dr. Etches said the number of people testing positive in Ottawa is stabilizing.
"The data we are seeing today tells me that two, even three weeks ago before restrictions were introduced, you took action to bend the curve. And it’s working. I want to thank the people of Ottawa for doing their part," said Dr. Etches.
"Ottawa has come a long way since the beginning of October when the modified Stage 2 restrictions were introduced. At that time we were seeing exponential growth of people testing positive for COVID-19, measurements of COVID-19 in wastewater were increasingly concerning, hospitalizations and outbreaks were rising rapidly, and sadly, we were seeing more deaths."
Statistics released on Thursday show the cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people have dropped in Ottawa since the new restrictions were imposed on bars, restaurants, nightclubs, fitness centres and other venues. The Science Advisory and Modelling Consensus Tables data shows the new cases per 100,000 people in Ottawa has dropped from over 70 cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 9 to 47.3 per 100,000 people as of Oct. 24.
After three weeks of the modified Stage 2 restrictions, Dr. Etches says Ottawa Public Health is working with the city, Ontario Health officials, and many different stakeholders on "sustainable measures" that will reduce the risk of transmission in Ottawa.
"What can we do to make places like restaurants, bars, gyms, where there is the risk of transmission of COVID, safer so that we can find a way to strike that balance between the harms that come when people lose employment with the harms of COVID transmission."
"We are still in discussions right now with many different stakeholders trying to understand what is feasible and what will reduce the risk."
The medical officer of health adds officials are looking at measures and restrictions that will carry Ottawa through the winter.
"We want something that allows us to learn to live with COVID and keep the levels low. So, the actual specific number of people in a venue may need to depend on the size of the venue, that enables people to spread out," said Dr. Etches.
"There are other kinds of ways we decrease the risk. Again, I want to go back to emphasis if we each go back in our household, stick to our household and when we went out to bars or restaurants, we would really decrease the ability for the virus to spread between households, and that's very important."