Etches says Ottawa will stay in orange zone next week, including for St. Patrick’s Day

OTTAWA — It will be an orange St. Patrick’s Day in Ottawa.

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says COVID-19 levels are currently steady in Ottawa, and she will recommend the capital stay at the “orange-restrict” level next week.

“I think we’ve held it steady and carry on,” Etches said during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“We want to keep this going for a few months still until we get all the older adults protected with vaccine, and that’s underway.”

Under the orange-restrict zone, last call at bars and restaurants is at 9 p.m., and all establishments must close at 10 p.m. There is a limit of four people per table at all bars and restaurants.  Social gatherings are capped at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Ottawa Public Health reported 52 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday. Ottawa’s COVID-19 rate is currently 35.6 cases per 100,000 people.

“We’re holding steady in orange, so close to red,” Etches said.

“I again, want to thank people – what’s making a difference, what’s keeping us in orange, keeping the restaurants open, the businesses open, services available is our behaviour. If we limit our close contacts, that’s what makes a big difference in Ottawa.”

The medical officer of health says you can do simple things to keep Ottawa in the orange zone and reduce COVID-19 transmission in the community.

“When we pay that extra attention to our social contacts, and we use distance and we go outdoors and we use masks that really helps,” Etches said.

Researchers at CHEO and the University of Ottawa reported Wednesday that while COVID-19 rates in the wastewater remain high, there is some positive news when it comes to coronavirus variants.

Researcher Tyson Graber tells CFRA’s The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll that the COVID-19 variants are no longer being detected in the wastewater.

“Last week we detected it and then this week, March 5 is our latest data point, it’s fallen again below detection level,” said Graber. “This increase in signal is not associated with the U.K. variant it seems, so that’s comforting. Doesn’t mean it’s not in the community though.”

It’s estimated there needs to be a presence of 50 to 100 cases of variants of concern for low-end detection in the wastewater to be possible.

Ottawa Public Health has said there are more than 100 cases of the variants of concern in the community.

“It shows us that our actions are effective for limiting COVID transmission, even when it’s a variant,” said Etches reacting to news variants aren’t being detected in the wastewater.

“We just won’t see COVID grow in our community if we keep distance between each other, and it works with variants as well.”

The medical officer of health has raised concerns about COVID-19 transmission in private settings and linked to sports team.

“People want to be physically active and that’s great and I support that. I just want people to know there are some activities that are higher risk,” said Etches on CFRA Wednesday morning.

“Breathing heavily, coming into close contact, no masks involved – that’s going to lead to COVID transmission in some situations.”

Roberts asked Etches if Ottawa can ride out the COVID-19 pandemic in the “orange-restrict” level until most residents receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I hope that people can continue even to push the levels lower. The less COVID we have, the fewer people that will be hospitalized,” she said.

“I think our goal is to push towards yellow, let’s see if we can bring the levels down lower. It looks like that’s a pretty tough task and so again, continuing this hard work if we stay here in the orange – it’s better than tipping over to red.”

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