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Public health unit reports Ottawa’s 3rd COVID-19-related death

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, provides an update on the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, provides an update on the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has claimed the life of a third person in Ottawa, the city’s public health unit said Tuesday.

The last two people to have died from the virus were a man and a woman in their 80s. Both lived at the Promenade retirement residence on Rossignol Drive in Orléans, Ottawa Public Health officials said in a daily teleconference call with reporters.

READ MORE: 2nd death linked to coronavirus in Ottawa, local health unit reports

The first death linked to COVID-19 in Ottawa — a man in his 90s who lived at home — was reported on March 25, while the second death was reported on Monday.

Ottawa Public Health said Tuesday there are 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city. That number marks an increase of 14 cases from the figures reported on Monday and now includes outbreaks at three retirement homes and one long-term care facility.

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Twenty people are currently in hospital because of the virus; six of them are in the intensive care unit, according to the local health agency. Eleven cases of the virus have been resolved as of Tuesday.

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The percentage of cases in Ottawa related to community transition is decreasing, said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health. The percentage stood at about 16 per cent on March 27 but is now closer to 11 per cent, she told reporters.

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“Roughly” 30 per cent of local cases are related to travel, while about another 20 per cent are related to close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases, Etches said.

Public health officials still can’t say when Ottawa will reach its coronavirus peak but Etches said that the physical distancing measures put in place have contributed to “a very slow rise” in the city’s total COVID-19 cases.

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“We haven’t seen a great big surge in the cases — and that’s exactly what we want, is for it to continue to be a manageable increase day over day and then to slow that rate of increase,” she said.

“And then ideally, we’ll reach that point where the numbers actually decrease.”

Four retirement home outbreaks, these cases ‘my top concern’: Etches

Due to provincial changes to COVID-19 reporting guidelines, Ottawa Public Health is now reporting two more confirmed outbreaks in local retirement and long-term care homes since its update on Monday.

In addition to the previously-reported outbreaks at Promenade and the Maplewood Retirement Community on Industrial Avenue, the public health unit said it’s now investigating outbreaks at Park Place retirement residence in Nepean and the Garden Terrace long-term care facility in Kanata, in the city’s west end.

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Etches described COVID-19 cases in retirement home settings as her “top concern” amid the pandemic because the people living in these residences are “a vulnerable population.”

“The nature of the residence is that it’s harder to contain the virus in those settings and we have seen examples of pretty negative outcomes in these kinds of settings around the world so it’s really my top concern,” the chief medical officer said.

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Three residents tested positive for COVID-19 at Promenade, including the two people who died, according to Brent Moloughney, the city’s associate medical officer of health. No other residents or health-care workers are being tested at that home, he said.

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At Maplewood, one resident and one health-care worker have tested positive for the virus and others are being tested, Moloughney said.

Park Place and Garden Terrace each have had a health-care worker test positive and further testing is taking place, he said.

Ottawa Public Health is treating a single, laboratory-confirmed coronavirus case at a retirement or long-term care home — whether in a resident or a staff member — as an outbreak, Etches said.

New assessment centres in Almonte and Winchester

Outside of Ottawa, two more COVID-19 assessment centres are opening their doors, Andrew Willmore, medical director of emergency management at the Ottawa Hospital, told reporters.

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One in Almonte, Ont., west of Ottawa, opened today, he said, in partnership with the Almonte General Hospital. Visits to that centre are by appointed only and referrals are required by a family physician.

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Another COVID-19 assessment centre will open on Wednesday in the eastern Ontario village of Winchester, in partnership with the Winchester District Memorial Hospital.

To date, 5,500 people have been examined at Ottawa’s COVID-19 assessment centre at Brewer Park Arena and 85 per cent of those patients were swabbed for testing, Willmore said.

There is also an assessment centre operating in Hawkesbury, just east of Ottawa.