Schools battle large respiratory outbreaks as COVID-19 indicators mostly subside

Ottawa's COVID-19 trends have generally receded for about three weeks, but the mix of respiratory illness — including rising flu activity — continues to hit schools and child-care centres hard.

Flu activity continues to rise, cases and test positivity above pre-COVID average

Someone walks on a path in either dawn or dusk, with buildings and fog in the background.
Someone walks in front of the Canadian War Museum as the Library and Archives, Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada are shrouded in fog in Ottawa Nov. 4, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Recent developments:

  • Ottawa's COVID-19 trends are mostly dropping.
  • Its flu cases and test positivity are above the pre-pandemic average.
  • Some of the city's school respiratory outbreaks are well over 100 students.
  • Five more local residents with COVID have died.
  • Belleville-area COVID hospitalizations drop to their lowest point since July.

The latest guidance

Officials in Ontario and Quebec say the health-care system, particularly for children, is under extraordinary pressure because of COVID-19, early flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) seasons, as well as a medication shortage.

Signs locally and more broadly indicate the spread of RSV and COVID are both slowing, but the same can't be said for the flu.

Ottawa's weekly respiratory update says flu activity is rising. Its confirmed flu cases and test positivity are already above the average pre-pandemic peak in winter.

A bar and line graph showing current flu cases compared to historic averages.
Ottawa Public Health's weekly respiratory illness report shows the number of confirmed flu cases in the city was, as of Nov. 19, above where it usually was in the winter before the pandemic. (Ottawa Public Health)

Experts strongly recommend people wear masks indoors. Staying home when sick, keeping hands and surfaces clean and keeping up-to-date with COVID and flu vaccines are also recommended to help keep vulnerable people safe.


The weekly average level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater is moderate, according to Ottawa Public Health (OPH). It says that as of Nov. 24 the average has slowly dropped this month and sits at a level last seen in June.

A line-and-bar graph of coronavirus wastewater measurements over the last month.
Ottawa Public Health shares the last 30 days of coronavirus wastewater measurements from the research team. (Ottawa Public Health)

Tests, outbreaks and deaths

Testing strategies changed under the Omicron variant, meaning many COVID-19 cases aren't reflected in counts. Public health officials now only track and report outbreaks in health-care settings.

Ottawa's COVID test positivity rate is about 11 per cent, which OPH considers high. It has been generally dropping over the last month and was around 22 per cent a month ago.

There are 18 active COVID outbreaks in Ottawa. This is moderate, according to OPH, and the number has been dropping.

The health unit also reports one flu outbreak, while the number of "other" respiratory outbreaks — nearly all in child-care settings — have fallen back to around 40. Five of the active respiratory outbreaks in schools have more than 100 cases, though.

OPH reported 81 more COVID cases over four days. Monitoring active cases became less useful after large-scale testing changes, but the current known active case count of 300 is Ottawa's lowest of 2022.

The capital also reported the deaths of three people age 60 and above with COVID. In all, 968 Ottawa residents who had COVID have died since the start of the pandemic, including 358 of them this year.


OPH's count of active, local COVID-19 hospital patients sits at 18, according to Tuesday's update, with four patients in intensive care. 

The health unit says the number of COVID hospital admissions is moderate. 

There is another count that includes other patients, such as people admitted for other reasons who then test positive for COVID, those admitted for lingering COVID complications, and those transferred from other health units.

That number increased slightly Tuesday and remains generally stable.

A graphic breaking down Ottawa COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Ottawa Public Health has a COVID-19 hospital count that shows all hospital patients who tested positive for COVID, including those admitted for other reasons, and who live in other areas. (Ottawa Public Health)


About 11,600 COVID-19 vaccine doses were given to Ottawa residents in the last week. This weekly number has generally ranged between 10,000 and 15,000 this fall.

About 9,000 of the shots were fourth doses.

As of the most recent weekly update, 93 per cent of Ottawa residents aged five and up had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 90 per cent had at least two and 61 per cent at least three.

Thirty-three per cent of Ottawans aged 12 and older had at least four doses.

About 9,000 residents younger than five have had a first dose, which is about 20 per cent of Ottawa's population of that age group. About 3,750, or eight per cent, have had two.

Across the region


Wastewater trends are dropping in Kingston, and low and dropping across Leeds, Grenville and Lanark (LGL) counties. They're rising in Hawkesbury and low in the rest of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU).

Data from other areas is out of date or unavailable.

After a brief drop, COVID test positivity in the EOHU rises back to around 17 per cent, about where it was over the previous month. Test positivity in the Kingston area is stable around 10 per cent; it's been higher for most of 2022.

Hospitalizations and deaths

Western Quebec's health authority, CISSSO, reported a rise to 89 COVID-19 hospitalizations. One of the patients is in intensive care.

Eastern Ontario communities outside Ottawa report about 40 COVID hospitalizations. Their six intensive care COVID patients are all in the Kingston area..

That regional count doesn't include Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) Public Health, which has a different counting method. Its count dropped to two Tuesday for the first time since July.

That health unit also says it has a high level of flu activity.

LGL's health unit reported two more COVID deaths in its weekly update for a total of 139.

This is by far the deadliest year for reported COVID-19 deaths in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region, with nearly half of its more than 2,000 reported COVID deaths coming in 2022.

Of the seven local health authorities, Ottawa is the only one that hasn't had its most reported COVID deaths in 2022.

Nationally, people dying of COVID in the later months of 2022 have generally been older, living with pre-existing conditions, or undergoing immune-suppressing treatments.


Across eastern Ontario, between 81 and 92 per cent of residents age five and up have received at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and between 53 and 65 per cent of those residents have had at least three.

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