‘Do the right thing’: Officials urge staying home as COVID-19 cases in Ottawa hit 194

Coun. Keith Egli, chair of the Ottawa Public Health board, and Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical offer of health, speak to reporters at city hall on Monday, June 17, 2019. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Politicians and health officials in Ottawa begged residents to “do the right thing” and stop gathering in large groups and in parks as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city jumped to 194 on Wednesday.

Officials say bylaw officers have been fielding many calls and complaints about groups of residents flouting requests to stay home after the Ontario government issued an emergency order banning gatherings larger than five people to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: Ottawa mayor calls parties amid pandemic ‘idiotic’; bylaw team to enforce new group ban

According to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, the city’s bylaw department received 139 calls about the provincial order and closed parks on Tuesday alone. Officers responded to a child’s birthday party with between 12 and 20 kids present, a yard sale in the city’s south end, large gatherings at Britannia Beach, and large groups at the skate park and play structures at Lansdowne Park, Watson said in a teleconference with reporters.

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“We just can’t have these types of gatherings,” the mayor said. “I know we want to continue some sort of normalcy in our lives. We want to spend time with our family and friends. I get that.

“But please limit your gatherings to the members of your immediate family who lived in your residence.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario reports 2,392 confirmed cases, death toll rises to 37' Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario reports 2,392 confirmed cases, death toll rises to 37
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario reports 2,392 confirmed cases, death toll rises to 37 – Apr 1, 2020

Responding to the coronavirus pandemic “must be a joint effort” and the fight “will not likely be over anytime soon,” said Coun. Keith Egli, who chairs the city’s board of health.

“[Ottawa Public Health] and the city can message all kinds of useful information, but if the general public does not follow the directions given, then we have a problem and that problem is not going to go away,” he said.
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Under the province’s emergency order, the city’s bylaw department has new powers to implement the new rule banning large gatherings and to issue steep fines for violations.

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Asked whether any of the people in the examples he gave were fined, Watson said the bylaw department hasn’t issued any tickets yet but that he suspects that will change “in the next couple of days.”

Ottawa Public Health reports new outbreak at group home

The repeat calls to follow physical distancing orders come as Ottawa’s public health unit reported 50 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city and one new outbreak since its previous update.

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Ottawa Public Health is now investigating five “institutional” outbreaks in total. Three are at separate retirement homes across the city and one is at a long-term care facility in Kanata.

The newest outbreak is at the Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities on Colonnade Road in Nepean, where there are two confirmed cases, according to Brent Moloughney, the city’s associate medical officer of health.

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The relatively large increase of coronavirus cases in Ottawa is “in large part due to the processing of the backlog of tests,” Moloughney said.

“They reflect cases that have occurred some weeks ago,” he said.

Number of people hospitalized increases

Five more people have been hospitalized because of COVID-19 since Ottawa Public Health’s last update, for a total of 25 people.

Seven of those people are in the intensive care unit (ICU) and these figures change daily, Moloughney said.

READ MORE: Ontario encourages local health units to enforce isolation of coronavirus cases, contacts, memo says

Based on the “overall data” of cases in Ottawa, seniors aged 65 years and older represent 49 per cent of cases admitted to hospital, and 49 per cent of those admitted to the ICU, according to Moloughney.

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“I would stress the flip-side of that,” he added. “That means that age groups younger than 65 represent 51 per cent of hospitalizations and represent 33 per cent of ICU admissions.”

The median age of people who have tested positive for the virus is 47 years old. The youngest person to have been diagnosed is two years old; the oldest age so far is 97 years old, according to the public health unit.

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Of Ottawa’s cases to date, 22 per cent are solely travel-related, 14 per cent are linked to close contact with a confirmed case and eight per cent have no link to travel or close contact. Exposure information for 51 per cent of the city’s cases is still pending.

There have been three COVID-related deaths in Ottawa to date: A man in his 90s who lived at home and a man and a woman in their 80s who lived at the same retirement residence in the city’s east end.

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