‘Maybe we’re being a bit more obedient’: Ottawa COVID-19 cases plunge while other hotspots soar

OTTAWA — People in Ottawa may be enduring a slightly lonely, isolated, but safer fall than the rest of Ontario’s coronavirus hotspots.

As the province broke records for escalating case counts, more than 1,400 province-wide alone on Wednesday, Ottawa continues to go the other way.

With just 27 new lab-confirmed cases Wednesday, Ottawa’s per capita rate of infection once the worst in the province, is now among the best.

Dr. Colin MacKenzie, a researcher from CHEO who is monitoring COVID-19 in Ottawa’s wastewater, says behaviour is driving numbers down.

“Maybe we’re being a bit more obedient…it really boils down to not getting together a lot and not being exposed to unmasked breath,” said MacKenzie.

Ryan Imgrund is a biostatistician who tracks data all over Ontario and charts it daily. He believes the targeted approach of closing restaurants and bars worked in Ottawa, but it did not work in other parts of the province.  

“It seems that the modified stage two for Ottawa was the right approach,” said Imgrund. “That is why their numbers have dropped significantly. It targeted the right things in Ottawa. Or seems to have.”

Based on population for the last week, Ottawa’s infection rate was just 38 cases per 100,000. Toronto is at 99 per 100,000. Peel is at 160 per 100,000.

It’s not just a daily case count, Ottawa’s seven-day average of new cases from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11 was down to 51.6.  During the second week of October, it had exploded to 105.3.

Toronto is imposing more restrictions, and Imgrund believes other regions in the area will be forced to do the same.

“I’d be shocked if York region doesn’t go red in the next week or two,” said Imgrund.

Ottawa has seen low numbers like this in the spring before, and that didn’t last. Scientists warn this is a virus that can come back with a vengeance, especially in the colder months. However, MacKenzie is cautiously optimistic. 

“This is a delicate dance we’re doing it ebbs and flows…we just need to be careful…keep those masks on when we’re close to someone else,” he said.  “I have some mild pride here. Keep it up, we’ll get through it.”

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