OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s top doctor says there is community transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, and people should treat all "interactions with others as a potential source of transmission of COVID-19."

“We are here today to report that Ottawa Public Health now has laboratory confirmation of community spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Ottawa,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health.

Speaking with reporters on Sunday afternoon, Dr. Etches said there are 27 confirmed and indeterminate cases (awaiting final test results) of novel coronavirus in Ottawa.

“Five of those have no known travel history, no link to someone who travelled, and no close contact with a confirmed case. So we are starting to see these community transmissions, and cases among health care workers.”

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit reported on Sunday a health care worker at the Ottawa Hospital tested positive for COVID-19. The man in his 30s, who lives in Prescott-Russell, has no known travel history.

Dr. Etches estimates there are now 4,000 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, based on modelling data and the rate of transmission.

“Because most cases are mild and undetected, I want to emphasize the importance that everyone needs to treat all interactions with others as a potential source of transmission of COVID-19,” said Dr. Etches.

“At this time, I’m asking that all people ensure they are practicing social-distancing, to the greatest extent they can.”

Dr. Etches says social-distancing is important for everyone, especially for people over the age of 55.

“Talking to your supervisor, manager, employer about how you can work from home, if possible. It means avoiding visiting older friends or relatives. Using phones, video chats, social media to stay connected, unless a visit is absolutely essential.”

Estimated 4,000 cases

The Medical Officer of Health said Sunday that based on modelling data and the rate of transmission, “we now estimate there may be up to 4,000 cases of COVID-19 in our community.”

Dr. Etches warned the forecast for infection shows a doubling in the number of cases in Ottawa every three days.

“The doubling time, we’re seeing is sometimes down to three days, every three days now. By this time next week, it could be 16,000” cases in Ottawa.

Dr. Etches acknowledged the lab confirmed COVID-19 numbers are numbers from the past, due to delays with processing the test results. 

“The challenge is the test results we get are from what happened in the past. People seem to fixate on the lab confirmed cases. What I’m using the estimate for is tell people, clarify, now it’s here and it’s here significantly and the actions we need to take are now."