Ottawa’s coronavirus recovery heading in the right direction, Dr. Etches says

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A provincial decision earlier in the week to allow Ottawa to proceed to the second phase of reopening is backed up by the latest data tracking the city’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the local medical officer of health told council Wednesday.

“All of the trends are positive,” said Dr. Vera Etches during this morning’s update to Ottawa city council.

The daily numbers of new cases of the coronavirus, the number of people in hospital with it and the number of outbreaks affecting Ottawa institutions are all decreasing, she said.

1:58 Ontario hospital overcrowding now back to pre-pandemic levels

Ontario hospital overcrowding now back to pre-pandemic levels

Ottawa Public Health has identified 2,002 cases of the virus in Ottawa as of Wednesday. Local figures are slightly lower than in previous days because a few cases originally identified as Ottawa residents have been reattributed to other public health units, Etches said.

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And 256 people in Ottawa have died due to complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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There are currently 19 people in hospital with COVID-19 and none in the intensive care unit.

The number of ongoing outbreaks in institutions such as long-term care homes and hospital wards is down to nine.

But as the city prepares to reopen restaurant patios and personal services such as salons and barbershops as of Friday morning, Etches cautions that there are still causes for concern wth the pandemic.

Nearly a third of cases identified by Ottawa Public Health in the past week can’t be linked to a known exposure to the virus, such as travel or a contact with a confirmed case.

And Etches showed council projections that even a 20 per cent increase in community transmissions — the result of physical distancing measures being relaxed too far — could overwhelm Ottawa’s health-care system by September.

Etches presented results from a survey of Ottawa residents that show 94 per cent of respondents are still practicing physical distancing and 60 per cent are wearing masks while indoors.

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She noted there has been confusion amid regional reopening measures of what’s permitted and what’s not. While social gatherings have been increased to gatherings of 10 people, for example, that hasn’t coincided with an expansion of the “household bubble” as other provinces have implemented.

Etches said the path forward is more defined by the principles of the pandemic and informed personal judgments than a strict set of rules.

Wearing a mask, isolating when sick, staying two metres apart from other people when possible and regularly washing hands remain key to continuing Ottawa’s positive trends, she said.

Smaller gatherings, and outdoors when possible, are still preferable even as restrictions are loosened, Etches said.

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