Ottawa's top doctor urges people to limit close contacts as COVID-19 levels remain high

Ottawa's top doctor is urging people to limit their close contacts and socialize outside as COVID-19 levels remain very high in the capital.

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says Ottawa's wastewater monitoring shows there is "more COVID in the community than ever", and everyone needs to take steps to limit transmission.

"Making sure that we're really considering the number of close contacts we have again," Etches said during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"There are good reasons to socialize and get together, but try to be careful with how many people at once, avoiding crowds, avoiding confined spaces, so taking things outdoors as much as possible.

"Wearing a mask is still something I highly recommend as we have high levels in the community."

Etches has been providing similar advice to Ottawa residents during each wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, urging residents to limit their social contacts during the pandemic.

While there are currently no capacity limits in indoor and outdoor settings and mask mandates have been lifted for most indoor settings, Etches is urging people to be cautious due to the COVID-19 levels found in Ottawa's wastewater.

"We know that it's really telling us we have more COVID in the community than ever and so our chances of coming into contact with the virus are higher."

Ontario lifted the mandatory mask mandates in all indoor public settings on March 21, and the COVID-19 vaccination passport ended in February. Cameron asked Etches what her message is to residents who may be confused about the plea to limit their close contacts with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and vaccination rates are high in Ottawa.

"Think about where the risk is highest, it is indoors," Etches said Wednesday afternoon.

"It's indoors where people are socializing, where the masks come off. So to really being careful about the number of close contacts in those settings. It is individual choices that we make in terms of how many people we come into contact with indoors. People are weighing their own risks.

"It is important for people to understand that the chances of coming into contact with COVID definitely are higher now."

LISTEN: Dr. Vera Etches tells @radioKristy Ottawa residents should take precautions like minimizing close contacts and socializing outdoors where possible with high levels of COVID in the community. #ottnews pic.twitter.com/dI8hXyMsba

— 580 CFRA (@CFRAOttawa) April 6, 2022

Etches notes people will make their own decisions on limiting contacts based on their level of risk.

"People are going to make their own decisions about this based on their level of risk. People who are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, you know third dose, younger – they have less severe risk of illness," the medical officer of health said.

"Those who have more severe health conditions underlying, you probably want to be careful. It also matters if you're indoors or out, so choosing outdoors is always a safer option."

Etches notes that if everyone in the community wears masks in indoor settings, it will protect the vulnerable members of the community during this wave of the pandemic.

"I AM PRETTY CONCERNED", ETCHES

The medical officer of health says she is "pretty concerned" that the level of COVID-19 in the community will translate into more people ending up in hospital.

"I think this is a time where we want to continue to have as much personal protection as we can against COVID because it's much more likely at this point that we'll encounter it," Etches said.

"So I am concerned, especially for people 50 and above who don't have a third dose. I am pleased that we can offer a fourth dose now to people who are over 60, who also might be at risk of more severe illness."