Ottawa

Ottawa's rise in COVID-19 cases not worrisome, but experts still urge caution

Despite the relatively stable numbers in Ottawa, there are concerns cases could continue to climb throughout the winter months as more people socialize indoors, in potentially crowded situations.

City's wastewater monitoring team says it's not worried by small increase in cases

Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist with Queen's University, suggests people can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 this winter by limiting the number of times they dine indoors at a restaurant. Pictured patrons dining indoors at a pub in the ByWard Market in Ottawa in September 2020. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

COVID-19 cases may be on the rise across Ontario, but the increase is slow, and in Ottawa, at least one expert says the increase isn't concerning.

Ontario reported 552 cases of the illness Monday, an increase of approximately 15 per cent over the same time last week, while Ottawa's new daily cases have been fluctuating, but not showing a dramatic surge.

"Ottawa seems to be much more, I would say, stable compared to other jurisdictions in Ontario in that we've seen this little bit of a roller coaster — small increases and then back down to small numbers again — over the last several weeks," said Tyson Graber, an associate scientist at CHEO, the children's hospital serving eastern Ontario, and co-lead investigator on the wastewater monitoring project in Ottawa.

"The speed of this increase is not something ... the wastewater team is terribly worried about." 
Researchers measuring levels of COVID-19 in Ottawa's wastewater have found them to be low this November. (613covid.ca)

High vaccination rates in Ottawa and across the province are likely behind the relative stability of the numbers, he said, however pointing out there is still a significant portion of the population — including children under the age of 12 — who are either unvaccinated or undervaccinated.

Graber says the viral signal in the wastewater is almost exclusively the delta variant, which is the same as newly reported cases. It means, there isn't any evidence of an emerging or unknown variant of concern.

"So this is really again, a pandemic now, not driven by variants, but driven by the unvaccinated," he said.

Socialization likely behind increase

Despite the relatively stable numbers in Ottawa, there are concerns cases could continue to climb throughout the winter months.

"Temperature and humidity make a huge difference. The virus takes advantage of lower temperatures and lower humidity to maximize its opportunity to infect others," Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen's University told CBC, pointing out the highest infection rates for any coronaviruses are typically in December, January, February and March.

WATCH | More close contacts leading to more COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa 

More close contacts leading to more COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa

2 months ago
Duration 1:25
Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University, says indoor gatherings and a higher number of close contacts has led to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the region. 1:25
 

That's because people spend most of the winter indoors, in crowded spaces. Socializing is also likely driving the current rise in COVID-19 cases across the province.

"With very high vaccination rates, people are feeling a little bit more likely to socialize outside what was previously their...circle," he said.

He says keeping social bubbles small will help keep infections down.

"For every 10 contacts that you increase beyond your normal number of social contacts, the risk of infection rises about 25 per cent."

With files from Adrian Harewood

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