COVID-19 infections on the rise in Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health still does not have detailed information on the variants driving the spike in cases in Ottawa, but they will likely include the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, Dr. Vera Etches said.

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Signs point to another potential spike in COVID-19 cases in Ottawa just at the start of summer.

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The city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, confirmed on Monday that COVID-19 infections in the community are rising again, due to rising sewage levels, increasing positivity of those tested and outbreaks in long-term care homes and elsewhere. .

“We are in a better place in terms of population immunity than we have been, but we know the pandemic is definitely not over,” Etches told the Ottawa Board of Health.

Etches said Ottawa Public Health, which now updates its COVID-19 data dashboard on Tuesdays and Fridays instead of every day of the week, still does not have detailed information on the variants at the time. origin of the rise in cases in Ottawa, but these are likely to include the BA .4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants.

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BA.4 and BA.5, which are pushing the waves in the UK and elsewhere, are highly transmissible and have been shown to evade immunity, meaning people who are already immune are at higher risk of be infected again than they were with other subvariants.

As of Friday, June 17, Ottawa Public Health is aware of 451 active cases, including 162 new known cases reported since the previous Tuesday. There were 26 confirmed COVID-19 patients in local hospitals and 17 ongoing outbreaks in institutions.

The latest rise in infections comes just weeks after the previous wave of COVID-19 hit the city in the spring.

It also comes at a time when nearly all provincial mask mandates have been lifted. They remain, by provincial decree, in long-term care homes and retirement homes and some hospitals have chosen to keep them in place. Ottawa Public Health has also strongly recommended that mask wearing continue in all health departments and gathering places.

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Etches said Ottawa Public Health will continue to promote a harm reduction approach to COVID-19, noting it’s important for people to “recover” from social isolation.

She encouraged people to make choices that reduce their risk.

“People can’t be well staying in isolation without contact, but we can’t ignore that (COVID) levels in the community are still moderate and rising. We are looking for a way to make the most of the summer by choosing to reconnect in a lower risk way,” she said.

“I think we are all tired and we have seen a drop in COVID in the community. What we want people to understand is that yes, coming together is important for our well-being. It’s hurting people when they stay isolated. But we have to understand that COVID is still in the community and when they get together they have to choose things that can reduce the risk of transmission.

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Etches encouraged people to congregate outdoors and wear a mask indoors when physical distancing isn’t possible.

She also encouraged people to get as many COVID-19 vaccines as they are eligible for. Currently, only 56% of Ottawa residents have received a third dose. People over 60 and vulnerable people are eligible for a fourth dose. Many have called for this eligibility to be expanded. Guidelines on vaccinating children under five — something underway in the United States — are expected in Canada this summer, Etches said.

Meanwhile, an independent review found that Ottawa Public Health acted quickly and with agility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite multiple challenges.

But Dr. Paul Gully, a senior public health physician who presented the preliminary findings of his report to the Ottawa Board of Health on Monday, said OPH’s response to the pandemic was made more difficult by the province’s practice. to issue directives without warning.

“It would have been helpful to have more information on what the province was thinking.”

Its full report is expected in September.

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