Ottawa's medical officer of health insists Ottawa Public Health will take "action where needed" if there is a rise in COVID-19 cases linked to the activities of university and college students this fall.
As post-secondary students arrive in Ottawa for the start of the school year, Dr. Vera Etches is asking students to "join our efforts" to control the spread of COVID-19.
Appearing on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Etches if she's worried about post-secondary students going "rogue" and not following the COVID-19 measures.
"I find most people are very aware about what works to stop transmission of this virus. We will be monitoring the situation and if we find particular things we need to target, you know particular venues or places, this is where we want to make sure we're not painting everyone with the same brush but taking action where needed," said Dr. Etches.
Ottawa Police and Ottawa Bylaw plan to increase patrols in areas around university and college campuses this fall to make sure people are following the COVID-19 measures. Officials say officers will issue $880 fines to people not following the COVID-19 measures.
Ontario's COVID-19 measures limit gatherings to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Etches about the large number of people allowed indoors possibly leading to a party.
"My letter suggests that might be the official limit. What we're looking for, what we recommend is much, much lower. Our social circles where it's safe to be really close together should be as small as possible," said Dr. Etches.
"We are fortunately seeing that while the number of cases has grown with people in their 20s, it's not spilling over into hospitalizations."
Data from Ottawa Public Health shows residents ages 20 to 29 account for 517 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. Residents ages 10 to 19 account for 210 cases.
"We do know that this is an important age to meet up with people. People are looking for life partners, and it's part of the developmental stage. We know that it's hard to keep social distance sometimes when you're indoors, you can relax a bit," said Dr. Etches about cases linked to people in the 20 to 29 age group.
"In those settings, that's where the virus is most likely transmitted – when we're close to people, without a mask, inside."
Dr. Etches says there's things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including wear face masks while indoors and limiting social contacts.
"We've seen young people say they're concerned about spread of the virus. They're concerned about their parents, grandparents, the broader community. So this is just a reminder to everyone."
Ottawa Public Health is urging students to be COVIDWise during the school year to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
W – Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres
I – Isolate yourself from others when you are sick
S – Stay two-metres apart from those outside your household
E – Exercise proper hand hygiene, wash your hands regularly and use sanitizer especially before touching your face
Ottawa Public Health notes Ottawa's Mandatory Mask Bylaw makes face masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces.
In an open letter to new and returning university and college students, Dr. Etches asked all students arriving in Ottawa to "join our efforts to control" the spread of COVID-19.
"Welcome to what we all know is going to be a unique school experience," writes Dr. Etches.
"COVID-19 has required some significant shifts in the way we live our lives, and we need to continue to rely on the collective efforts of our neighbours, partners, families, roommates and friends to keep community transmission low here in Ottawa. Everyone needs to do their part."