OTTAWA -- Ottawa's top doctor is recommending you wear a mask outside of your home as much as possible to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

"You don't need me to tell you to wear a mask; you should always wear a mask as much as you can when you're outside your home," said Dr. Vera Etches as COVID-19 rates continue to rise in the community.

On Tuesday, the Medical Officer of Health announced she is issuing a class order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to limit the number of people on outdoor skating rinks to a maximum of 25 people. A maximum of 25 people will also be allowed in gathering sites such as parking lots, trailheads on cross-country ski trails and the top and bottom of toboggan hills.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Wednesday morning, Dr. Etches said Ottawa residents need to do "all we can" to not give COVID-19 an opportunity to spread.

Host Annette Goerner asked Dr. Etches why Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa just don't make masks mandatory while skating on outdoor rinks.

"Unfortunately, we still continue to see the crowds and not everyone does wear a mask can wear a mask. It is not perfect but everyone is able to," said Dr. Etches.

"The distance still matters. Again, masks aren't perfect – they help."

Last week, the city announced masks are mandatory in areas around outdoor skating rinks, but people don't have to wear masks while skating.

Dr. Etches added that Ottawa has the highest levels of COVID-19 in our community since the start of the pandemic.

"So in fact we should be staying home as much as we can and when we go to do physical activity, which is key for our mental health so get outside everyday, choose times where it's not crowded, choose places where it's not crowded - that will just decrease your risk of coming into contact with COVID," said Dr. Etches.

Goerner asked Dr. Etches why not make masks mandatory on skating rinks, instead of trying to limit the number of people at an activity.

"You don't need me to tell you to wear a mask; you should always wear a mask as much as you can when you're outside your home. So please do wear a mask on the rinks if you can," said Dr. Etches, noting there is provincial legislation that allows an exemption to wearing a face mask while exercising.

"If you can wear a mask when you're doing physical activity, absolutely."

Masks are mandatory in all indoor public places and workplaces in Ottawa, along with in common areas at apartment and condominium buildings. Ottawa Public Health has recommended you wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible. 

"This idea that crowds is okay if you're wearing mask, we really just need to step back and think about it. Are you coming into close contact? If that person beside you had COVID-19… it is possible," said Dr. Etches.

"Choose other times that are less busy. We know that people don't realize that they're carrying the virus; people have no symptoms at all, sometimes they have very mild symptoms just a headache."