Ottawa's marginalized areas have higher COVID-19 rates, OPH says
City's trends similar to Ontario's, according to medical officer of health
Ottawa communities that are poorer, more racialized and home to higher numbers of recent immigrants are experiencing a COVID-19 infection rate nearly twice the city's more well-off areas.
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, shared those findings with city council Wednesday morning as part of her regular update on the pandemic.
According to Etches, Ottawa's least privileged areas have COVID-19 infection rates above the average of 148 cases per 100,000 people, while those that are more privileged have rates below the average.
A more detailed breakdown wasn't immediately available, with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) saying it will put out a report once it's gathered and analyzed more data.
Etches said these trends are similar to those for Ontario noted in a provincewide report last month.
While OPH hasn't gathered enough socio-demographic data to draw hard conclusions, Etches said the first month-and-a-half of collecting that information from people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 found two-thirds consider themselves racialized, with just over half not born in Canada.
In the most recent census, about 26 per cent of Ottawa's population described themselves as a visible minority, and about 23 per cent were born outside Canada.
That discrepancy shows pre-existing inequalities in Ottawa, Etches said, and it will take changes to data collection, policies and programs — along with better community partnerships — to address it.
The Ottawa Board of Health declared systemic racism a public health issue last week.
Concerns about mental, physical health
In her report, Etches also said OPH continues to hear about people struggling with their mental health during the pandemic and that many people are less physically active than they were before mid-March.
An OPH survey from 2017 found nine per cent of respondents said their mental health was "fair or poor." In a survey this month of 566 people, that figure rose to 38 per cent.
Those results suggest racialized people and those making less than $60,000 a year are among the demographic groups struggling the most with mental health during the pandemic, Etches said, along with people with disabilities and those younger than 45.
In its most recent daily report, OPH said there were 53 known active cases of COVID-19 in the city, with just one in hospital.
There have been 1,750 cases considered resolved and 262 deaths.