COVID ‘still causing challenge’ in Ottawa this fall, Dr. Etches says

Ottawa’s top doctor warns COVID-19 is “still causing challenge” in the community this fall, and is urging everyone to get up to date on vaccines and wear masks in indoor and crowded spaces.

In its weekly COVID-19 snapshot, Ottawa Public Health says its monitoring indicators show that levels of COVID-19 in our community are “still high.”

The COVID-19 testing per cent positivity rate is high, while wastewater monitoring indicators show levels are “high”, according to the health unit.

Speaking with CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said COVID-19 levels are causing people to miss work and school.

“So what we’re seeing, unfortunately, is people are getting sick and then they have to miss key events; they have to miss work that they need, children are having to stay home from school which they need, so it’s disruptive,” Etches said.

“COVID is still causing challenge.”

On Thursday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health urged people to wear masks in indoor settings, and said he will make more recommendations on masking ahead of a “quite complex and difficult winter” battling COVID-19.

“We will make recommendations based on data to inform Ontarians when we have to mask up more,” Dr. Kieran Moore said. “Certainly, if you’re risk to this virus at present we need you to mask as you go indoors.”

Starting Monday, Ottawa residents aged 12 years of age and older will be able to get the bivalent COVID-19 booster dose from Pfizer.  Health Canada approved the vaccine that targets the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant.

“We have two bivalent vaccines that are going to be available, the second one coming online on Monday. This is a vaccine that’s building on the same science as the first COVID vaccines, but now it’s specific to the Omicron that’s in our community,” Etches said.

Moderna’s bivalent booster is currently available in Ottawa and across Ontario for those 18 years of age and older.

With COVID-19 levels remaining high in the community, Etches is recommending people take steps to protect yourself and those around you.

“We know that the vaccine is the first lines of protection, but so are the other things we all have heard about and know we can still turn to; like wearing masks indoors, in crowded spaces especially,” Etches said. “These are things we need to practice and they help against not just COVID, other respiratory viruses that we’re seeing as well.”

Etches says there will be “no conflict” between the COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine this fall.

“You can get both the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine at any time in relation to each other,” Etches said. “That’s good protection. We’re expecting a heavy respiratory virus season and we want to have that protection against multiple viruses.”

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