Ottawa's COVID situation ‘the worst that it’s been to date’
The Confederation Building reflects off the windows of a building in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, April 7, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's associate medical officer of health warns the health care system could soon be at "significant risk" as hospital admissions double every 12 days during the current wave of COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Brent Moloughney says vaccinations over the next few weeks will not get Ottawa out of this crisis, and people need to stay-at-home, practice physical distancing and wear a mask.
"The situation in Ottawa is the worst that it's been to date during the pandemic," Moloughney said during a technical briefing with councillors and the media on Wednesday, warning there could be 200 COVID-19 patients in Ottawa hospitals by late next week if the trends continue.
"The weekly rate that we're seeing is the highest it's been since the beginning of the pandemic. The percent of individuals testing positive has increased as well."
Ottawa saw more than 300 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa for the fourth time in five days. Public health reported 329 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with three new deaths linked to the virus.
There has been COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa linked to workplaces, hospitals, sports and recreation settings, at social events and in schools.
In what was described as a "sobering" update on the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa, Moloughney said "We're really not in a good place and things could go very badly in Ottawa."
As of Wednesday, there were 92 Ottawa residents hospitalized with COVID-19 related illnesses, including 23 in the intensive care unit.
Dr. Moloughney told reporters that hospitalizations in Ottawa are doubling every 12 days. On March 18, there were 24 people in hospital, then 12 days later on March 30 there were 47. On April 11, 96 people were reported to be in hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses.
"If this trend continues and we continue to double and double, the ability of our health care system to handle this number of cases of people needing care in our hospitals will have extreme difficulty keeping up," said Moloughney.
"Already we are seeing scheduled procedures being cancelled. Things we've never seen before like paediatric hospitals are freeing up space in their ICUs to take on young adults who need care."
On Tuesday, CHEO said it was preparing to accept adults under 40 requiring critical care amid a surge of COVID-19 patients.
Ottawa-area hospitals are bracing for 200 patients with COVID-19 related illnesses by next week.
"If this trend continues, that's the number of hospitalizations that will occur by late next week," Moloughney said.
The associate medical officer of health said if hospitalizations continue to double every 12 days in Ottawa, there would need to be major changes to the way health care is delivered in Ottawa.
"We are at a major, major point here as a city and I felt it's important to share that this is where we are and why we need to focus on bending this curve as quickly as possible," said Dr. Moloughney.
Approximately 85 per cent of hospitalizations are above the age of 50.
"That's why we're focusing on that age group for immunizations, so we can protect those that are most vulnerable to being hospitalized.”
As of Wednesday, 236,163 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Ottawa. Public Health says vaccines alone won't be enough to stop this fifth wave of COVID-19 infections and the rise in COVID-19 infections.
"It's not going to help us, in terms of the people immunized over the next few weeks to get us out of this wave," said Dr. Moloughney.
"It's really going to come down to our own behaviours and our own work, and sometimes it feels like difficult work, to interact with people virtually, to wear a mask, to be distanced and to reduce opportunities for transmission."
VARIANTS OF CONCERN
The number of cases identified as variants of concern has increased significantly in Ottawa.
Dr. Moloughney says VOCs transmit the same way as the original COVID-19 virus, through droplets.
"As we talk and as we breathe, even more so if we shout, or sing or exercise," said Dr. Moloughney. "Which means they can be prevented the same way as non-VOCs."
Ottawa Public Health reported 2,174 variants of concern cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Nine deaths have been linked to variants of concern.
Dr. Moloughney says our "individual actions work" to supress the wave of COVID-19, including staying at home during the stay-at-home, physical distancing and wearing masks when physical distancing is not possible.
Ottawa Public Health says Ottawa is now in the fifth wave of COVID-19 cases.
"Admittedly the first wave last spring, there wasn't as much testing and so the case numbers are less as they would have been if there is as much testing as there is now, but this is the biggest wave we've been in," Moloughney said.
"In recent days, we've been seeing daily reported cases often over 300, when it wasn't so long ago it was 30."