COVID-19 numbers 'not low enough yet' to avoid outbreaks, deaths in Ottawa: Top doctor

image.jpg

Ottawa's medical officer of health suggests it is possible the modified Stage 2 restrictions on bars, restaurants, and gyms has had some effect on the COVID-19 case numbers in Ottawa.

However, 20 days after the new restrictions were introduced; Dr. Vera Etches says COVID-19 transmission is "not low enough yet" in Ottawa to avoid outbreaks and deaths.

The Ontario Government moved Ottawa to a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10, with new restrictions on food and drink establishments, fitness studios and gyms and movie theatres. Under the restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited at bars and restaurants, while gyms, fitness centres and movie theatres are closed for at least 28 days.

Three weeks into the modified Stage 2, Dr. Vera Etches was asked what indictors she is monitoring before making recommendations on the next steps for Ottawa.

"In terms in what I'm looking at to make advice to the mayor and the premier about restrictions, it really goes about the level of COVID in our community. So is it low enough yet to avoid numerous outbreaks and outbreaks that leads to death? It is not low enough yet," said Dr. Etches.

"The trend is good; we're continuing to watch that. We do need to continue to bring the level down."

The last time Ottawa Public Health reported 100 cases of COVID-19 was on Oct. 13.

"Then the way I approach it is to think about what are the most effective kinds of interventions to bring the level of COVID down.  We have seen the implementation of the restaurant closures and bars and gyms, and it is possible that that's had some effect," said Dr. Etches.

"Certainly, I see the rates dropping significantly in people in their 20s; that's encouraging because that's the age group that has had the highest rates and so if we can bring that down that helps decrease the spill over into other age categories with more risk."

Ottawa Public Health moved Ottawa into the COVID-19 red zone on Oct. 10 due to rising COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.

"We're looking at all of our data about where are the outbreaks, where are we hearing people are out and about when they're infectious and putting all of the qualitative information together as well to think about what will get at the root causes of transmission," said Dr. Etches.

"So, I do think we need to continue to put pressure on the virus and it's really a question of which are really the most effective instruments and tools to use."

The medical officer of health adds recent data from the CHEO wastewater research project has not shown the "nice beautiful precipitous drop in COVID-19" officials were hoping for.

Earlier this week, Dr. Etches told CTV News at Six Ottawa has seen some progress in COVID-19 numbers over the past few weeks.

"We're continuing to look for an ongoing decrease. I think we do need to reassess the measures at the end of 28 days and decide which measures are the best measures to implement going forward," said Dr. Etches.

"I'm not sure we’ll reach a point where we can do without any restrictions at all, but we want to decide which ones are going to tackle the problem the best."