Young people behind spike in COVID-19 numbers, says OPH

For the second day in a row, Ottawa's number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached into the double digits.

44 per cent of recent cases tied to people under 30

People wait for a table at a ByWard Market patio on July 12. Ottawa Public Health says young people are driving a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the city. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

For the second day in a row, Ottawa's number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has hit double digits — part of a recent surge health officials say is linked to young people.

Another 16 cases of COVID-19 were reported by Ottawa Public Health on Sunday, following a similarly large spike of 19 cases on Saturday.

While COVID-19 cases in Ottawa "do cross all age groups," more than four in 10 recent cases involve people younger than 30, said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's chief medical officer, Sunday morning.

"Everybody needs social contact. People in their 20s have been doing a great job. They've been part of this collective effort to flatten the curve," she said via Skype.

"What we need to emphasize now is when we're going to with friends — if they're not in our social circle, we need to keep the two metres' distance." 

Dr. Vera Etches says data indicates the recent increase in case numbers isn't linked to a particular bar or restaurant. (Skype)

Indoor gatherings to blame, says Etches

There are now 98 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 48 since the same time last week.

The rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 comes as the province of Ontario enters Stage 3 of its reopening plan, which means movie theatres, yoga studios, pubs and dine-in restaurants can all reopen.

However, nothing in the data indicates the recent surge in cases is tied to a particular bar or restaurant in the city, Etches said, but rather gatherings at private dwellings and cottages.

"Many of the cases that are arising are due to that kind of scenario, where people are indoors, in closer contact, and someone's been sick. And then it spreads," Etches said.

It's important to encourage others to follow public health recommendations, Etches added, regardless of a person's age.

She urged people to keep indoor gatherings small and not to mix social circles, while gathering outside whenever possible.

'I think we'll all be OK'

Colin Leger was one of many who did just that Sunday, as he got together with friends at Ottawa's Mooney's Bay.

He said the spike in cases among younger people is concerning, and feels some of the blame placed on his fellow 20-somethings may be warranted.

After being cooped up for months, Leger said he understands why people want to get together again.

"The fact that we can get outside and actually see each other is quite a thrill," he said. "It's going to be quite different in the winter when we run out of this kind of weather."

Colin Leger says he understands why people his age are excited to get outside and socialize with their friends, but hopes they'll be more cautious about wearing masks and staying physically distanced. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

He also hopes more of his peers follow the guidelines set by OPH.

"So long as we're staying two metres apart and wearing masks, I think we'll all be OK in the end," he said.

Not everyone agrees wearing masks is the answer, however. Gajda Alwani was one of dozens of people who attended another outdoor gathering Sunday: an anti-mask protest on Parliament Hill.

She said masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.

"We are adults and we can judge. We can keep the distance," she said. "But to force everyone to [wear masks], I don't think it's fair."

1 person enters ICU

In total, 2,224 cases have been confirmed in the city since the start of the pandemic. Of those, 1,863 people — or roughly 84 per cent of all cases — are considered recovered. 

No deaths were reported Sunday, making it more than three weeks since health officials have reported a death in Ottawa. 

Five people remain hospitalized with the virus, and one person is in intensive care. 

Across the river in western Quebec, there have been 632 confirmed cases of the virus and 33 deaths reported as of 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Ontario's Ministry of Health reported 164 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday morning. The province also reported three more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the death toll in Ontario to 2,751.

With files from Natalia Goodwin and Radio-Canada's Boris Proulx

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