Ottawa

Don't go trick-or-treating this year, Etches advises

Ottawa's medical officer of health is recommending against children going from house to house for candy on Oct. 31, in keeping with existing public health advice meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Medical officer of health urging Ottawans to celebrate Halloween at home

Raining on their parade: Drew Shouldice, 5, dressed as a thunderstorm to go trick-or-treating at Rideau Hall last Halloween. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ottawa's medical officer of health is urging trick-or-treaters to stay home this Halloween.

Vera Etches told Ottawa city council Wednesday she's recommending against children going from house to house for candy on Oct. 31, in keeping with existing public health advice meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Etches said trick-or-treaters might come into close contact with one another and might have difficulty keeping their hands clean, and said coronavirus could be transmitted by handing out candy.

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday trick-or-treating could be adapted to make it safer, but added that she was speaking generally, and not necessarily about hot spots like Ottawa — a point echoed by Etches.

WATCH | The risks of trick-or-treating:

Vera Etches, medical officer of health, says the city’s high rate of infection means that going door-to-door for Halloween isn’t recommended this year. 0:52

Last week, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) also recommended against Halloween parties, suggesting people plan scary movie nights or scavenger hunts at home instead.

Ottawa is currently considered a COVID-19 hot spot, with OPH reporting more than 100 new cases most days in recent weeks. Per capita, the city currently has the highest rate of transmission in the province.

Hospitals and health-care staff are under strain, and the city is one of three regions in Ontario ordered back to a modified version of Stage 2 pandemic restrictions on the weekend, forcing some businesses to close.

New cases drop

OPH reported just 45 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a sharp decline from recent numbers. Another 115 cases are now considered resolved, lowering the number of active cases in the city to 769. There are no new hospitalizations or deaths.

Just over half of the new cases reported Wednesday are people under 40.

A total of 5,707 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa since the pandemic began, including 4,641 resolved cases and 297 deaths.

Meanwhile, the testing backlog appears to be improving slightly under the province's appointment-based testing model, coupled with more stringent guidelines about who should get tested.

Ottawa still has a long way to go: currently, just 20 per cent of those tested are learning of a positive result within 24 hours. Ontario said Wednesday that 30 of the province's 34 health units are returning results within one day at least 90 per cent of the time.

In a bid to improve on those local results, the province has announced it's hiring 150 more contact tracers in the Ottawa area over the next month.

There are two new outbreaks at Ottawa schools: École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph d'Orléans and St. Joseph High School. The outbreak at École secondaire catholique Garneau is over, leaving 12 current school outbreaks in Ottawa.

Elsewhere, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit is pointing to outbreaks in Alexandria and Hawkesbury long-term care homes as the main reason its case count is rising, up 23 since Tuesday.

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