COVID-19 situation in Ottawa stable after July spike: Ottawa's top doctor

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. The doctor overseeing Canada's COVID-19 antibody research says we should get the first glimpse of how many Canadians may already have had COVID-19 by the middle of this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

After a spike in COVID-19 cases in July, Ottawa's medical officer of health says new cases of novel coronavirus, hospitalizations and outbreaks have stabilized in Ottawa this month.

Dr. Vera Etches says the drop in cases so far in August is a sign that Ottawa residents changed their behaviour to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Ottawa Public Health reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Thursday, the second straight day of double-digit increases.  There are currently five active COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa at long-term care homes, retirement homes, child care centres and camps.

There were 445 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa in July, up from 132 new cases in June. On July 21, there were 43 new cases of COVID-19, the largest one day spike in new cases since the beginning of May.

"I was worried mid-July to the end of July where we saw a doubling of cases one week, and then another doubling of cases the next week," said Dr. Vera Etches during an interview with CTV Morning Live Thursday morning.

"I'm very pleased that the people of Ottawa took a look at that and changed their behaviour, which is reflected in a decrease in that rate of doubling again. We've gone back down to a stable level of cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks. They're at a higher level then they were in June, but they are stable at this time."

It's been one month since Ottawa entered Stage 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan, allowing restaurants to begin offering dine-in service and gyms and movie theatres to open.

Dr. Etches says the spike in cases in July shows Ottawa residents can't let their guard down to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"It's a reminder for us that this virus is not like influenza. It's a real challenge because it's constantly in our community and constantly able to rise again rapidly if we let our guard down," said Dr. Etches.

"This is why I'm calling on everyone to continue doing their part now. If our community rate decreases, that helps decrease the risk of infection in our schools."

CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Etches how much of a challenge will winter be to deal with COVID-19 in Ottawa.

"I believe that it will be harder for our population, but our population has been very adaptable so far. I really want to recognize that," said Dr. Etches.

"People have drastically changed the way that they're living. I think that we need to draw on that strength and knowing that we are Canadian and we will make it through a winter that's a bit different again. Certainly, it will be important to continue to think about the size of gatherings indoors, that is where we've seen the close transmission with close contact indoors."