Ottawa's top doctor concerned about current wave of COVID-19 in the capital
Ottawa's top doctor is expressing concern about the levels of COVID-19 in the community, and is urging residents to "reassess and adapt" their behaviours by limiting in-person contact and wear masks indoors and outdoors in crowded spaces during the seventh wave of the pandemic.
"I am concerned about the current wave," medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said in a statement, noting there are "very high levels" of COVID-19 in the wastewater and hospitalizations and outbreaks are increasing.
"This is indicative that the level of COVID-19 is very high in Ottawa right now, higher than the January Omicron wave."
The Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 dashboard reported 32 people in hospital on Tuesday with an active case of COVID-19, up from 24 hospitalizations a week ago. There are 64 COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals, up from 29 on July 12.
Dr. Etches notes Omicron and its sub-variants are "much more transmissible", and we "cannot rely on immunity alone to protect us."
"Individually and collectively, now is the time to reassess and adapt our behaviours to the levels of COVID-19 in the community," Etches said.
"This is an important skill we will all need as we head into the fall. Wearing masks indoors and outdoors in crowded spaces, staying home when sick, getting booster doses, and minimizing contacts during periods of high transmission in the community are all behaviours that will help us, our families, and our loved ones. Individual actions help influence community impact."
The special statement issued from Dr. Etches on Friday was the first statement on COVID-19 in Ottawa since April 13, just ahead of the Easter long weekend.
CHECK COVID LEVELS LIKE YOU CHECK THE WEATHER
As COVID-19 levels rise in the community, the medical officer of health says you don't need to cancel cottage trips, parties and other events during the summer.
"I would suggest that people check the COVID levels like you check the weather and adapt your behaviour according to your risk level," Etches told CTV News at Six.
"So younger people, people who are vaccinated, we see the lower likelihood of severe illness. When you are older, you have an immunocompromised state or someone in your family is like that, then you do want to be careful and choose to wear mask indoors, meet outdoors on the patio.
"We're trying to find the balance with the need for social connections, that is clear."
Etches says the message is people should adapt their behaviours to the current level of COVID-19 in the community.
"We're very high and now that a return to those masks indoors, in grocery stores that can make a difference for people."
BOOSTER DOSES AVAILABLE
The Ontario government opened up fourth doses to residents aged 18 and older last week. Public Health says nearly 600,000 people in Ottawa have received their first booster dose so far.
Etches says now is the time for people to get their first and second booster doses.
"Now is also the time to reach out to friends and loved ones who are not yet vaccinated or boosted. Talk to them about why you chose to get your shots," Etches said. "Talk to them about why it is important for them to get theirs. Show them you care. If they have any questions, our nurses are always just a phone call away."
In a statement on Twitter, Ottawa Public Health said, "we're not trying to scare anyone, but if you haven't yet taken this wave seriously, now's a good time to start.
"This is the time for everyone to reassess their behaviours based on the levels of COVID-19 in the community."
Last week, Eastern Ontario medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he expected the seventh wave to peak in one to two weeks. The current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variant.
Ottawa Public Health continues to "strongly recommend" that everyone wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and the medical officer of health suggests businesses "may choose to reintroduce masking policies" at this time.
Dr. Etches is telling residents they can make a difference on the impact of COVID-19 in community by wearing a mask indoors and outdoors in crowded spaces, staying home when sick and getting a booster dose.
"The pandemic is far from over. The warm weather has brought some much-needed respite from those hectic winter months, but now is not the time to let our guard down," Etches said.
"NOT HEADING TO A LOCKDOWN," ETCHES
The medical officer of health says while the COVID-19 levels are higher now than in January, Ottawa is in a better position.
"We're making it through, we're in a better place than we were in January. Things are not in lockdown, we're not heading to a lockdown," Etches told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.
Etches says a mask mandate for indoor settings is not under consideration at this time.
"That's not the place we're at in terms of the tools we use when COVID was leading to higher rates of severe illness," Etches said.
"We're trying to find a balance here with keeping people able to access the things they need, the activities important to them. People, again, they'll know what their level of protection is, what their level of risk is so that mask wearing, right now, is not a requirement. I think we need to keep assessing that and if we're seeing things are worse, we have much more significant level of severe illness – these are things, we're not saying never, but we're monitoring the situation."