No ‘sufficient signs’ the COVID-19 curve is turning in Ottawa: Dr. Etches

OTTAWA — Two weeks after Ontario implemented a stay-at-home order, Ottawa’s top doctor suggests there may be “a little stabilization” in the COVID-19 transmission in the community.

“I cannot say that we are seeing sufficient signs of the curve turning yet,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Ottawa Public Health reported 181 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, following 186 cases on Tuesday.

Appearing on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Etches was asked if the stay-at-home order issued on April 8 is having an impact.

“It looks like it may well be. Congratulations to people in Ottawa again, your hard work is probably starting to at least stop the rise,” said Dr. Etches.

“We’re not seeing the curve turn yet, but we’re also not seeing some of the indicators continue to go up, maybe there’s a little stabilization. I do think this is because people are being really conscious about what they go out for, who they come into close contact with and it’s worth it. We need to get out of this situation and get the COVID levels a lot lower, so that are health system can function and people are safer.”

Speaking with reporters Wednesday afternoon, the medical officer of health noted the COVID-19 wastewater study is showing a “decrease” of COVID-19 in the community, but it has become a less reliable indicator during the spring melt.

“The other early indicator is the percentage of people that are testing, testing positive. It was a terrible thing to see it going up, and up and up. Over 10 per cent of people that present for a COVID test end up being positive. That is no longer rising to the same degree,” said Dr. Etches.

“The other measures are a little dependent on the number of people being tested. Our rates are coming slightly down, but the number of people going to be tested are also down.”

The positivity rate in Ottawa is currently 11.7 per cent for the period of April 14 to 20.

Students across Ontario are learning from home this week, after the provincial government closed all schools to in-person learning indefinitely.

“I have not had any conversations with anybody about when schools might be able to reopen. My sense is we need to clearly see that the curve has turned and that we’re bringing the level of COVID back down in our community. Then they should be one of the first things to reopen,” said Etches.

“I also think that it’s worth thinking about if it could be done in stages to be able to accomplish schools opening sooner rather than later; could we get elementary students back to school first, for example, and then move on to secondary students later. But these discussions are premature today because we still haven’t turned that curve unfortunately.”

The Ontario government implemented a stay-at-home order on April 8, and extended it another two weeks until at least May 20. 

COVID-19 CASES INVOLVING VACCINATED RESIDENTS

Ottawa’s medical officer of health is urging residents who have received the first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to continue to practice COVID-19 public health measures.

“We all do, after we’re vaccinated, need to continue to keep up behaviours like maintaining distance from others, wearing a mask and keeping your hands clean when with people outside of their households until more people are fully vaccinated,” said Etches.

“People have tested positive for COVID-19 in the days following immunization, as the vaccine takes time to build immunity and is not 100 per cent effective.”

Ottawa Public Health reports 238,481 people have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“With high levels of COVID in our community, we expect to continue to see a small number of vaccinated people test positive,” said Etches.

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