Cottage party a cautionary tale about rampant spread of COVID-19

Ottawa's medical officer of health used the vivid example of an ill-fated cottage party to illustrate how quickly COVID-19 can spread in the community if proper precautions aren't taken.

Dr. Vera Etches describes how single unchecked infection spread to 40

A person walks past a mural by artist Dom Laporte showing a health-care worker in Ottawa on Sept. 7, 2020, iduring the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ottawa's medical officer of health used the vivid example of an ill-fated cottage party to illustrate how quickly COVID-19 can spread in the community if proper precautions aren't taken.

In a presentation to city council Wednesday morning, Etches showed a slide depicting 10 friends gathered at a cottage. She didn't specify where or when the gathering occurred.

"There was one person who developed cold-like symptoms while at the cottage party, and then tested positive on their return home. Subsequently, seven of those friends tested positive for COVID-19," Etches said.

"Within nine days, one person with symptoms became 40 confirmed people who tested positive."

WATCH | An example of community spread:

How a party attended by ten people turned into 40 COVID-19 cases

3 years ago
Duration 1:52
Featured VideoIn an example of contact tracing, Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, shows how a party attended by ten friends resulted in 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Making matters worse, some of those subsequent cases involved vulnerable people who had to be hospitalized. Some of the original group also "attended work and retail locations while they were communicable," Etches said, including two child-care centres that had to be closed to prevent further spread.

"None of these people expected that their minor cold symptoms were COVID, and if there was protection like physical distancing, if people were wearing masks, then that would limit the transmission of COVID-19," Etches warned.

Ottawa Public Health declined to provide CBC with further details about the cottage party and its consequences "to protect the identity of the individuals involved."

Situation stable, Etches says

Notwithstanding that grim example, Etches told councillors the rate of COVID-19 infection in the city remains stable despite alarmingly high numbers of new cases in recent days.

OPH logged 17 cases Wednesday and marked 34 as resolved, lowering the number of active cases in the city for the first time since Friday.

Eleven of the newest confirmed cases involve people under the age of 40.

Ottawa has now had 3,151 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including 225 active cases, 2,659 resolved and 267 deaths linked to the respiratory illness.

Eleven patients are currently in hospital for treatment, including one in intensive care.

The daily reports don't necessarily reflect how many people tested positive for COVID-19 on the day the numbers are made public; rather, they indicate the number of new cases OPH is notified of as of 2 p.m. the previous day.

Etches reassured councillors that both new infections and hospitalizations remain stable, and that recent outbreaks, while a on the rise, are under control.

Etches said OPH's priorities include making sure parents screen their children for symptoms before sending them off to school. The entire household must stay home if anyone shows symptoms, she said.

OPH is also guarding against the spread of the illness in long-term care homes, she said, noting that in August, one-third of care home staff who tested positive were asymptomatic.

WATCH | More people with ties to schools expected to get tested:

Number of COVID-19 cases stable, but will likely rise with more testing, OPH says

3 years ago
Duration 1:06
Featured VideoVera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, says the city will likely see a rise in cases as testing begins to include more school-age children and their families.

Provincewide, there were fewer new confirmed cases than in previous days with 149, but also less testing. Once again, Ottawa had a disproportionately high share of new cases.

Quebec logged 180 new cases on Wednesday, also down from recent days.

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