Ottawa

Steel yourselves for another year or 2 of COVID-19, Etches warns residents

Ottawa's medical officer of health is warning residents to be prepared to live with the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the community well into 2021 or even 2022.

Individual actions primary factor in controlling spread, medical officer of health says

A construction worker keeps their face covered in downtown Ottawa June 23, 2020. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Ottawa's medical officer of health is warning residents to be prepared to live with the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the community well into 2021 or even 2022.

Vera Etches told Ottawa city council Wednesday that even as new cases and hospitalizations dwindle in the region, residents must remain on guard. That means continuing to practise physical distancing and wear masks, even after Ottawa moves into Stage 3 of the province's reopening plan on Friday.

There are currently 58 known cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, with three people in hospital. Of the 2,167 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, 85 per cent are considered recovered.

There have been 263 deaths in Ottawa, the last one reported on June 25.

Etches noted that while the number of new cases and outbreaks in the city dropped during Stage 2, more than 40 per cent of confirmed infections over the past two weeks have no known source.

WATCH: How the pandemic may develop into 2022

Vera Etches, Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health, says community transmission could continue into 2021 and 2022, with the virus rebounding periodically in either smaller or larger waves. 2:21

Looking ahead, OPH is mapping out a few different scenarios. Under the best-case scenario, the city will continue to manage the spread of COVID-19 and carefully lift remaining restrictions.

A second scenario would see restrictions vary in response to surges in infections, while under the worst-case scenario a second wave would threaten the health-care system anew, leading to another clampdown.

Etches said she doesn't want to have to return to the kind of citywide shutdown imposed in March, but warned individual actions play a more important role than any amount of testing or contact tracing.

"It is what will make the difference going into the future," she said.

City council voted Wednesday to support the bylaw to make masks mandatory in most indoor public spaces. The bylaw adds the threat of fines ($200 for an individual and $400 for a corporation) to last week's public health directive on masks.

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