Ottawa

Outbreaks among sports teams on the rise: OPH

Ottawa is on the verge of entering the red zone as the city sees a sharp rise in COVID-19 in its wastewater and a rise in outbreaks among sports teams — including teams of older adults.

Ottawa teeters on verge of red zone; 124 suspected cases involving variants of concern

Ottawa's medical officer of health said there has been a rise in the number of outbreaks related to group sports, including hockey, soccer, and dance. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa is on the verge of entering the red zone on Ontario's colour-coded pandemic scale, as the city sees a sharp rise in COVID-19 in its wastewater and a rise in outbreaks among sports teams — including teams of older adults.

Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said outbreaks are happening in a range of sports from hockey, soccer, skating, tennis, and dance schools.

"Although training is still permitted, team sports and activities are considered high risk," she said.

Etches said COVID-19 is being transmitted in change rooms, when people are carpooling, and when they're socializing before and after practice to have a drink or eat together.

"That is the behaviour that allows COVID to be transmitted because there's not that barrier stopping respiratory droplets from entering into somebody else's body and then causing infection."

This has been the most challenging year of many of our lives.- Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health

Another type of sport that's causing a problem is pickup games. That's because not everyone knows the other people who were playing, let alone their contact information, which health officials use to let others know they may have been exposed.

Etches said OPH is seeing outbreaks among sports teams made up of middle-aged and older adults.

Etches said it's important to wear masks, physically distance as much as possible, wash your hands, and stay home when sick.

124 cases with possible variants of concern

While Etches didn't say Tuesday how soon the city might enter the red zone, she pointed to a sharp rise of COVID-19 in Ottawa's wastewater data, a rise in hospitalizations, and the increase in percentage of people testing positive.

Ottawa currently has 37 cases per 100,000 population. The threshold for moving into the red zone is 40.

The number of variants of concern is also on the rise. Last week, there were 73 new suspected cases involving variants of concern, plus 10 that had already been confirmed. That number has increased to 124, said Etches.

Etches did also offer some hope as the city's vaccination campaign ramps up.

"This has been the most challenging year of many of our lives," she said. "But every day, I am more and more amazed at the extraordinary way people have adapted to the circumstances, by the resilience and the bravery and the strength in our community. Together, we are forging ahead."

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