'Upturn' in COVID-19 in Ottawa, lockdown measures need to remain in place: Dr. Etches
OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s top doctor says Ottawa is seeing an “upturn” in COVID-19 activity in the community, and residents should expect the lockdown to continue for the full 28-days unless the numbers improve quickly.
Ottawa Public Health reported 64 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while a record 2,923 cases were recorded across Ontario.
Speaking on CTV News at Six with anchor Patricia Boal, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said COVID-19 indicators show transmission is increasing in Ottawa.
"I think it's important for the people of Ottawa to know that right now we are on an upturn again, and the wastewater is an early signal – it's gone up more steeply just recently," said Dr. Etches, discussing the COVID-19 indicators monitored by health officials.
"The percent of tests coming back positive is higher; we also see the rate of people testing positive per 100,000 has gone up above 40 – so that is actually a threshold into red territory."
Ottawa Public Health reported the percent positivity rate was 2.5 per cent from Dec. 23 to 29, up from 2 per cent last week. Ottawa's COVID-19 cases per 100,000 increased to 40.1 on Wednesday.
Ahead of New Year's Eve, Dr. Etches is urging people to celebrate only with members of their household to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
"We are in a time where our actions matter – today what we do will make the picture better in two weeks," said Dr. Etches.
"Again, it is not too late to change your plans for New Year's to make sure that you have safer plans, to make sure you stick with the members of your household. We know that the earlier we act to bring the numbers back down, the easier it is to bring them back down."
On Saturday, Ottawa and Ontario entered a strict province-wide lockdown, forcing nearly all non-essential businesses to close. The lockdown is scheduled to last until Jan. 23 for all regions in southern Ontario, including Ottawa and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.
On Dec. 21, Dr. Etches described the 28-day lockdown for Ottawa as disappointing, saying she asked the Ontario government to consider a two-week shutdown for Ottawa.
"One that would be as short as possible in consideration of the evidence of the COVID-19 indicators in our community," said Dr. Etches.
On Wednesday, Boal asked Dr. Etches during CTV News at Six if she has changed her position on the lockdown for Ottawa.
"I've always said that the rate can change quickly, that's what we're seeing right now. Certainly, if we stay in the red kind of zone, there is value to limiting our close contacts and expect that full 28-days of the lockdown," said Dr. Etches.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Etches said the current lockdown measures need to remain in place due to the rise in COVID-19 indicators.
"Things were looking stable and we know things can change quickly, and unfortunately things are starting to change quickly in the wrong direction and so that's where we have to re-evaluate," said Dr. Etches.
"Right now, what I'm seeing is that we need to continue with the measures in place."
Dr. Etches added Ottawa residents have turned the COVID-19 curve at least three times, and "we know what works" to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The medical officer of health is urging people to continue to limit their close contacts, stay home as much as possible, practice physical distancing and wear masks.
"In this period after the holidays, let's recommit to behaviours that work," said Dr. Etches.
On Wednesday, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis suggested the 28-day lockdown would need to be extended to limit the spread of COVID-19.