Ottawa

OPH shifts focus from staying home to staying safe

As Ottawa's COVID-19 situation continues to trend in a positive direction, the city's medical officer of health says the message is shifting from staying home to staying safe.

The spread of COVID-19 appears to be slowing, but don't let your guard down, top doctor warns

Space to breathe: Elaine Loubser sketches next to Colonel By Drive in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

As Ottawa's COVID-19 situation continues to trend in a positive direction, the city's medical officer of health says the message is shifting from staying home to staying safe.

The spread of the virus is slowing, there are fewer institutional outbreaks and hospitals have been handling the caseload well, Vera Etches told Ottawa city council during an update Wednesday.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH), which since mid-March has been warning residents to stay isolated at home as much as possible, is now advising them to think carefully about how they can stay safe while doing activities such as running, cycling and shopping.

The two-metre rule still applies when it comes to people from different households, and OPH is still advising everyone to wear a light cloth mask when distancing is difficult, such as in a store.

OPH still advises against attending picnics or barbecues where there's shared food, playing contact sports and hosting others at your cottage.

(Ottawa Public Health)

Letting things slide risks undoing the progress the city has made, and that could result in a spike of new infections that could overwhelm the health-care system, Etches warned.

OPH classifies the city's current status as "orange," the third level on a four-level system where red means widespread infection and overburdened hospitals, and green means few new cases and efficient contact tracing.

Get tested right away

OPH reported 14 new cases on Wednesday. There were just 10 new cases per day for the four days prior, and no more than 25 new cases for the last 11 days.

The daily reports represent what OPH has learned in the previous 24 hours, and doesn't necessarily reflect the number of new infections in that period, nor the number of undiagnosed cases.

As of the last daily report, there were 1,922 known cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, though that number could be anywhere from five to 30 times higher, mainly because testing has been limited.

 

On that note, Etches said most people are waiting more than two days after first feeling symptoms to get tested, and is urging people to act faster if they think they might have contracted COVID-19. Anyone can now be tested at one of the city's three assessment centres.

WATCH: Quicker testing means better tracking, Etches says

Vera Etches, Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health, says more than 50 per cent of people who may have symptoms of COVID-19 are waiting more than two days to get tested, complicating efforts to track the virus. 0:56

Etches also said mental health issues seem to be worsening as the pandemic drags on, pointing out the Ottawa Distress Centre received more than 9,000 calls over the last two months, a record for the help line.

OPH has a dedicated page with tips and resources for people feeling stressed, worried or in crisis.

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