Ottawa mayor urges limiting close contact to household amid ‘unsettling’ COVID-19 case spikes

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he's calling park authorities together on Monday to address reports of large gatherings in local parks over the weekend during Ontario's stay-home order. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is asking residents to consider limiting their close contacts to just the people inside their homes amid a surging number of coronavirus cases in the city.

His comments came the same day Ottawa added 105 new COVID-19 cases, the largest-ever single-day increase in the city since the pandemic began.

On Twitter, Watson called Tuesday’s record case numbers “unsettling” and attempted to remind residents that they all have a role to play in flattening the curve.

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“One of the best ways you can help limit the spread of this virus is by trying to keep your close contacts to just those in your household,” he said.

He went on to say the behaviour of Ottawa residents today could have an impact on gatherings at Thanksgiving, now less than two weeks away.

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“Our actions today could have a major impact on how we’ll be spending the long weekend,” he said.

Watson also said the city is working with higher levels of government on opening new assessment centres to increase testing capacity at the city’s backlogged sites, though recent reports have cast doubt on provincial priorities around testing.

Read more: Drive-thru coronavirus testing comes to Eastern Ontario

The Ottawa Citizen first reported Monday that the province was looking to “pause” adding more testing capacity in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario to give the region’s labs more time to build up processing capacity, according to a memo sent by a regional health director.

On Tuesday, the Ontario NDP shared what it called a section of the memo, which appeared to confirm much of the report. It seemed to show an Ontario health director saying that the east region would need to process 1,215 fewer tests per day.

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A spokesperson reportedly later told the Citizen the information obtained via the memo was inaccurate and that it was not sent with the approval of the minister.

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Global News reached out to the Ontario health minister’s office for comment but did not receive confirmation regarding the original memo.

Instead, the ministry spokesperson sent a memo dated for Tuesday that was addressed to the province’s assessment centres.

In it, Ontario Health affirmed “there are no caps or quotas on testing” and referred to the province’s new guidance from last week, which said that asymptomatic people should not get tested for the virus.

Read more: Ontario hospitals call on government to move certain regions back to Stage 2

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The memo did indicate Ontario Health is working with sites on “testing targets” based on historical need for testing in each region. The memo said these targets “go beyond” the anticipated need for testing under the province’s new guidance.

“Ontario Health will continue to monitor testing volumes daily and adjust as needed, in order to align with and support the ministry’s guidance,” the memo read.

Spokespeople for both the Moodie and Heron care clinics told Global News on Tuesday they were still working on extending hours at the testing sites and setting up appointment-based booking systems to improve capacity at the sites, but could not yet provide timelines for when the changes would be implemented.

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