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Ottawa COVID-19 reports an ‘underestimate’ of viral levels: Dr. Moloughney

Ottawa Public Health reported 13 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, but the city's associate medical officer of health says viral levels are an "underestimate" with low testing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The level of COVID-19 in the nation’s capital is likely higher than Ottawa Public Health’s daily reporting is suggesting, according to the city’s associate medical officer of health.

OPH reported 13 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the latest figures in a trend of consistently low daily reports on the novel coronavirus pandemic in Ottawa. The number of active COVID-19 cases, meanwhile, dropped to 245 and the city’s weekly coronavirus positivity rate dipped below three per cent in the most recent period.

But Dr. Brent Moloughney, associate medical officer of health, said in a press conference on Friday that OPH’s reports are an “underestimate” of the actual levels of COVID-19 in the city.

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He pointed to data tracking the COVID-19 viral signal in the city’s wastewater system, which has jumped up over the past two weeks, and added that the level of coronavirus transmission in the city is “much higher” than this time last year.

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Moloughney said testing levels are lower, however, which might result in an understated daily case count.

While Ottawa has been ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination efforts — 75 per cent of adults now have at least one dose and 17 per cent are considered fully vaccinated — Moloughney said the level of vaccine coverage is not enough to rely on immunization to prevent a surge in coronavirus levels. That will only happen “closer to the end of summer, at the earliest,” he said.

Read more: Ottawa BlackJacks want vaccinated health workers in the stands for home games

Moloughney pointed to the more transmissible Delta variant, first identified in India, as a looming threat in the city’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

“So far, there’s not much Delta variant here, and we want to keep it that way.”

He encouraged anyone who is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to get tested and specifically highlighted children, who might not be going into school but may soon be attending day camps, as a population that needs to be screened for the virus regularly.

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