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Coronavirus: ‘Real possibility’ Ottawa moves to red zone next week, Etches says

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said Wednesday that the COVID-19 situation in the nation's capital warrants a shift to Ontario's grey-lockdown zone. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ottawa’s medical officer of health says the city could be put under tighter coronavirus restrictions less than two weeks after emerging from a province-wide lockdown.

Dr. Vera Etches said in a presentation to Ottawa city council on Wednesday morning that COVID-19 trends in the nation’s capital are moving in the wrong direction and the province could act as soon as next week to impose tighter restrictions on the city under the colour-coded reopening framework.

“We are not heading towards yellow. We are heading towards red. That is not OK,” she said.

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Following weeks of declining coronavirus levels in the city under the province-wide lockdown and stay-home order, Ottawa moved into the orange-restrict zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework on Feb. 16.

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Read more: Coronavirus restrictions: Ottawa COVID-19 indicators approaching red zone

Etches said Wednesday that it’s a “real possibility” Ottawa is placed in the red-control zone next week.

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Mayor Jim Watson asked residents to continue the behaviours that have kept COVID-19 levels low in Ottawa during previous lockdowns, lest businesses and other activities have to close down once more.

“Let’s not blow this. Let’s not go back to our old habits and let’s not give the province a reason to put us back in lockdown,” he said.

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Ontario officials typically announce decisions to move regions to different levels of the colour-coded framework on Friday afternoon.

Ottawa’s COVID-19 levels have been trending closer towards the red zone threshold as of late with a slight dip in some indicators on Wednesday, according to the latest data from the local public health unit.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reported 41 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total number of cases locally to 14,470 since the start of the pandemic.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Ottawa dropped to 52 as of Wednesday compared with 55 the day before. The city’s rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people also dropped to 34.5 from 37 on Tuesday.

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Ottawa’s coronavirus positivity rate also dropped to 2.1 per cent in the past week, down from 2.3 per cent in the previous period.

Etches noted that hospitalization levels are no longer declining locally, with 21 COVID-19 patients currently in hospital, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

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She also said that long-term care homes continue to face outbreaks, but it is increasingly staff members contracting the virus, rather than residents, with the second round of vaccinations at these high-risk sites completed earlier in the month.

Etches said the most important step Ottawa residents can take to clamp down on rising COVID-19 levels is to limit close contacts to their households.

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She said the winter holidays drove Ottawa’s coronavirus rates up quickly due to people gathering with other households.

Etches asked residents to limit carpooling with those outside their households and to avoid congregating before and after work.

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