COVID-19 levels still high in Ottawa, top doctor warns

Ottawa's ByWard Market on Thursday, May 12. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)

Ottawa's top doctor warns that COVID-19 transmission rates are still high in the community, and people should still try to limit close contacts, wear a mask in indoor settings and be up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations to limit your risks during this warm spring weather.

"That wastewater indicator tells us we still have more COVID-19 in the community than we did in January, which was very high," medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

"We are still asking people to be mindful of their risk and take those steps we know make a difference to reduce your risk of severe illness."

Ottawa Public Health reported levels of COVID-19 remain high in the community this week, while hospitalizations are stable.

"Overall, we are encouraged that the different things we measure like wastewater and outbreaks that are occurring, they're showing signs of improvement but the levels are still high," Etches said Thursday.

"I think that probably resonates with people, because people are still getting sick.  So fortunately, we do have these layers of protection, the vaccination that's keeping people out of hospital."

The health unit says you can lower your risk of contracting COVID-19 by socializing outdoors this spring, and wearing a mask when in indoor and/or crowded places.

Roberts asked Etches if she has adjusted her position of wearing a mask in indoor, public places.

"Not at this point because of what I say is in terms of still seeing that high level. It still does mean that when you are indoors with a lot of people and there aren't masks you have a higher likelihood of being exposed to COVID," Etches said.

"We know that people are doing their own risk assessment; so individuals who recently had COVID feel that they are younger, they are not at risk of severe illness, they're maybe not as often choosing to wear masks."

The medical officers of health for the Niagara Region, Peterborough and Windsor-Essex sent a letter to Ontario's chief medical officer of health last week, asking the province to reinstate mask mandates for schools and indoor public settings.

Ottawa Public Health told CTVNewsOttawa.ca this week that it's "supportive of measures that can be taken to increase mask use during the resurgence, including policies in specific buildings, workplaces and community settings, including schools and child care."

OPH says it has no plans to introduce any local measures to require masks in schools at this time.

Ottawa Public Health continues to "highly recommend" residents practice these measures to limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Avoiding crowded areas
  • Limit close contacts
  • Being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations, especially third doses, and fourth doses for immunocompromised people and those aged 60 plus
  • Staying home if you’re not feeling well
  • Awareness of the need to access antiviral treatment early in the course of infection, for those at higher risk