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‘We are close to red,’ Dr. Vera Etches says as Ottawa adds 65 new COVID-19 cases

People line up outside a COVID-19 testing facility in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.
People line up outside a COVID-19 testing facility in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 65 additional coronavirus cases on Wednesday as the city’s top doctor warns the city may need to raise its virus warning level during the second wave of the pandemic.

OPH says there have now been 3,837 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since the pandemic began.

Despite a surging number of new cases in the city over the past week, the number of active cases dipped to 545 on Wednesday from 587 the day before.

Read more: Ontario reports 335 new coronavirus cases, 69% under the age of 40

Another person has died in relation to the virus, bringing the total number of local COVID-19 deaths to 280.

The latest daily increase follows 93 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.

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OPH will support residents affected by new order

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, has ramped up the city’s enforcement approach amid a second wave of coronavirus through a new order that subjects residents to hefty fines if they do not respect self-isolation orders should they test positive for the virus, show symptoms, or be in close contact with another individual who has COVID-19. The measure also applies to anyone who is waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.

Etches was asked by Ottawa councillors Wednesday morning whether the order could have a negative impact on some residents who might not be able to afford to take a week off work to self-isolate while waiting for a coronavirus test, for example.

Click to play video 'Ottawa’s top doctor says city already in second wave' Ottawa’s top doctor says city already in second wave
Ottawa’s top doctor says city already in second wave

She said she understands the impact it could have on individuals from marginalized communities, adding that OPH works with residents on a case-by-case basis to figure out ways to meet their needs while self-isolating.

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This can include anything from helping with access to government support programs and food to finding someone to walk their dog, she said.

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“This order doesn’t change how we’ll approach people who have barriers to staying home,” Etches said.

The order is aimed at someone refusing to help, she added.

Read more: 40 people had a BBQ at an Ottawa park. Days later 105 people are quarantined for coronavirus

Seeking support for vulnerable residents who might be affected by the order, Capital Coun. Shawn Menard attempted to put forward a motion at the end of council calling on Mayor Jim Watson to write to Premier Doug Ford to immediately establish access to 10 days of job-protected, paid sick leave related to COVID-19 for workers across the province.

After a short debate, the motion was ultimately delayed until the next council meeting in three weeks so that city staff can have time to review the recommendations.

Leaning red

Asked Wednesday at council why OPH has not shifted its colour-coded warning system from orange to the more severe red, Etches said the one metric that remains stable in Ottawa is hospitalizations.

Since the majority of people who are testing positive lately are younger, their symptoms tend to be less severe and hospital capacity has yet to be overwhelmed.

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Read more: Parking issues cropping up at Ottawa’s main COVID-19 testing site

But as the local case count continues to climb, the virus could increasingly infiltrate areas of the community such as long-term care homes where more vulnerable residents are put at risk.

“We are close to red,” Etches said.

OPH released its daily coronavirus report after Etches’ comments, which showed the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 is up to 13, with a third person now in intensive care.

Read more: Ottawa getting east-end COVID-19 testing site in October, Mayor Watson says

OPH added both the Collège catholique Franco-Ouest and Gabrielle Roy Public School to its list of coronavirus outbreaks on Wednesday, raising the number of local schools in outbreak to four.

Outbreaks were previously declared at Monsignor Paul Baxter and École élémentaire catholique Montfort.

A new outbreak was also declared at the Robertson Home retirement residence, where one staff member has tested positive for the virus.

Staff at the Ottawa Hospital are helping to run operations at two long-term care homes facing coronavirus outbreaks, Laurier Manor and West End Villa, Etches said on Tuesday.

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