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Coronavirus: Ottawa adds 132 new COVID-19 cases on 1st day of stay-home order

The number of COVID-19 cases in the capital rose by 180 on Thursday, the local public health unit says. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

Ottawa Public Health is reporting 132 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday as the province’s new stay-home order comes into effect.

There have now been 11,879 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since the start of the pandemic, with 1,243 of those currently considered active.

No new deaths were added to OPH’s COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday, leaving the city’s death toll of the pandemic standing at 398.

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The number of people with COVID-19 in Ottawa’s intensive care units dropped from 15 to 12 on Thursday, with 33 total patients who tested positive for the virus currently hospitalized.

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One new coronavirus outbreak was added to OPH’s dashboard on Thursday, raising the total number of ongoing outbreaks to 41.

Among positive trends in Ottawa’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve once more is the estimated reproduction number, or R, which reflects how many people test positive for the virus in connection with an average case. A value lower than one reflects that the virus is slowing in its spread.

Ottawa’s estimated R-value sits just above one as of Thursday and has trended downwards since Dec. 27 — the day after Ottawa joined the rest of the province in lockdown — when it stood at 1.37, according to the dashboard.

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But the R-value is just one indicator among many, OPH cautions, and is subject to fluctuations when analyzed in short-term timeframes. The R number does not alone tell the story of Ottawa’s efforts in getting the pandemic under control, the public health unit told Global News in a statement.

“Looking at the other tracking indicators, in particular, wastewater surveillance and lab test percent positivity, it would be best to monitor over the next half week where we are heading. There is a great deal of fluctuation in the day-to-day data and it’s important to look at trends averaged over a week to be more confident,” OPH said.

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Ottawa’s percent positivity stood at 4.5 per cent as of Thursday and has steadily ticked down from 4.7 per cent in early January.

The levels of coronavirus in the city’s wastewater system remain high, according to data published by Ottawa researchers, but the seven-day average of viral signal has also trended downwards in the past week.

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OPH added in its statement that while the provincewide lockdown might have been helpful in lowering overall virus levels in the community, implementing the restrictions on Boxing Day rather than before Christmas also likely had an impact.

“The Boxing Day closures may have been helpful, however, the fact that people were given a few days before these closures came into effect may have driven up the rates of contact between people during that time period, with more people shopping and socializing before the Dec. 26 shutdown,” OPH said.

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Thursday marks the start of the province’s 28-day stay-home order, which asks residents to limit all travel outside the home to “essential” trips only, with exceptions for grocery shopping, medical appointments and exercise.