A survey by the Association for Canadian Studies finds 66 per cent of Ottawa respondents said they are avoiding downtown during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shaun Vardon/CTV News Ottawa)

A new survey finds a majority of Ottawa residents have been avoiding the downtown core during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some say novel coronavirus is not the only reason they're avoiding the trip.

A survey from the Association for Canadian Studies concludes the coronavirus pandemic has driven people out of the downtown core.

According to the survey, 66 per cent of Ottawans said they have been avoiding the downtown core since the start of the pandemic.  Edmontonians lead the way with 75.5 per cent of respondents staying away from downtown areas, followed by Vancouver at 70 per cent. In Toronto, 65 per cent of people said they are not going downtown.

"When asked whether Canadians have been avoiding downtown areas since COVID-19, some 60 per cent say that they have done so," said the study conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies in partnership with Leger between Sept. 18-20.

The study polled 1,538 Canadian and 1,001 American urban residents online.

Residents who responded to the survey overwhelmingly (58.4 per cent) said they are avoiding heading downtown to the city centre.

Ottawa resident Rochelle Sealy is concerned about COVID-19 so she is sticking closer to home and heading to South Keys for her shopping.

"I love going to the Byward Market but there’s a lot of people down there,” Sealy said. "I’m not trying to get too close to others right now."

The study suggests public health measures such as social distancing rules and reductions in gathering sizes have made it difficult for businesses that depend on high volumes to make their rent.

"I’ve been to a few patios," Carol Belki said. "I was comfortable with that but sitting inside a restaurant it depends."

In Kanata, shoppers told CTV News Ottawa the COVID-19 pandemic is not the main reason they avoid visiting downtown Ottawa to shop or eat.

"No concerns, I find we don’t go downtown very often, but not for any reason of COVID concern, more just for convenience," Dean Brokop said. "I find Ottawa does not have a lot to draw people downtown. The Parliament buildings but beyond that there isn’t much of a regular draw."

When asked what business could do to get shoppers to come back to downtown Ottawa, many residents said the city needs more unique stores and attractions to bring them back.

"I think there are specialty things people can get downtown," Jennifer Spanos said. "It would have to be something more unique."

"I’ve been to the Rideau Centre a couple of times," Belki said. "Other than that I have no reason to go downtown."

With files from CTV News Montreal's Daniel J. Rowe