Ottawa entering new wave of COVID-19: OPH

Ottawa Public Health says Ottawa is entering a new wave of COVID-19.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Monday, deputy medical officer of health Dr. Brent Moloughney said OPH is monitoring rising levels of the virus in the community.

"As we enter a new wave, it’s important to consider your risk, and the risk of those around you when gathering. Ottawa Public Health continues to highly recommend people keep practicing the measures that we know work – being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations, limiting close contacts, staying home if you’re not feeling well, avoiding crowded areas, and wearing a mask," he said.

OPH's COVID-19 dashboard only updates on Tuesdays and Fridays and there was no update on Canada Day. As of last Tuesday's report, OPH was reporting an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported per day and an increase in the positivity rate of people who are still being tested.

The number of new cases reported the week of June 19 was 423, slightly higher than the peak of the Sept. 2021 wave, but still well below the all-time high of 7,000 cases reported the week of Dec. 26, 2021. Testing eligibility was looser in 2021 than it is now and laboratory-confirmed case counts in 2022 are generally considered an underrepresentation of the amount of COVID-19 in the community.

The Ottawa COVID-19 wastewater monitoring project’s latest data show the seven-day mean viral signal detected in the city’s sewage as of last week was almost as high as it was at the peak of the January 2022 wave, but it remains below the April 2022 wave that saw the viral signal hit an unprecedented high.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations remained low as of last week’s report from OPH. As of June 28, OPH has recorded 74,866 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 819 residents of Ottawa have died from the disease.

At least 209 residents of Ottawa have died of COVID-19 so far in 2022, compared to 228 in all of 2021 and 381 between March and December 2020.

Moloughney’s comment comes amid discussion around expanding COVID-19 vaccine booster dose eligibility to allow residents 18 and older to receive a fourth dose. Currently, fourth doses are not available to any under the age of 60 in Ontario.

Canada’s Chief Medical Officer and the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) are telling provinces to launch booster dose campaigns in the fall, but some experts are calling for boosters to be made more widely available now.

Ottawa epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Sunday that the fall is too late to start boosters with a wave on the way, and Ottawa physician Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth has said she’d bring legal action against the provincial government if booster eligibility remains restricted much longer.

“Waiting until the fall, when we’re told that it’s going to be really bad in the fall, is ridiculous; we should be able to access the vaccine now,” Kaplan-Myrth says. 

“A lot of people were going across to Quebec to get the vaccine because anyone 18 and over there get it but, unfortunately, many places in Quebec are now turning away Ontario residents, and so now people are having to drive to the United States.”

Moloughney said the decision to expand booster eligibility is in the hands of the provincial health ministry.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said fourth doses are available for populations at greater risk, but a review of the guidelines is underway.

"We are reviewing NACI’s most recent guidance and will be providing details for fall booster shots over the coming weeks," the statement said.

To date, 64 per cent of residents of Ottawa 12 and older have had a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from OPH.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Peter Szperling.