Dr. Etches warns health care system is in ‘crisis’ as Ottawa sees record number of COVID-19 cases

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s medical officer of health is sounding the alarm about the record number of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa, warning the health care system is in “crisis” due to novel coronavirus.

 “Ottawa, as a collective, is not doing enough in the area of prevention,” said Dr. Vera Etches during a media availability with reporters Friday morning.

The 142 new cases of COVID-19 sets a record for highest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases. The previous record was 105 new cases on Tuesday.

“We will hit 200 (new cases a day) way before mid-October if this rate of increase continues and it’s not good, we must do better,” said Dr. Etches about modelling data showing Ottawa could hit 200 new cases a day by the middle of next month.

The medical officer of health warned Ottawa residents that the rising number of cases of COVID-19 is putting pressure on public health and hospital capacity.

“Our health system is in crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Etches, noting hospitals are “stretched to maximum” capacity right now.

Dr. Etches said prevention is the key to limiting the spread to COVID-19, followed by testing and contract tracing.

“This system is nearly broken. The volume of people seeking testing is putting a strain on every part of the detection and contact tracing process,” said Dr. Etches.

“There’s not enough trained personnel to staff facilities, the laboratories have reached the limits of their machines and human resource capacities, and the test swabs are waiting for analysis, they’re sitting backlogged for over a week. This in turn puts public health staff behind on following up with those who test positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts, resulting in people going out in the community who may have COVID-19 without knowing it.”

Dr. Etches says work is underway to address testing and contract tracing capacity, along with issues surrounding beds and staffing in hospitals and long-term care homes.

“But these are not going to be immediately in place. The entire system is under pressure and new resources for any of these components takes weeks or months, not days to put in place,” said Dr. Etches.

“What can be done quickly is changing our behaviour. All residents and visitors to Ottawa need to be doing our part – prevention!”

Dr. Etches is asking residents to cancel weekend plans with friends and limit their social interactions to households.

“Data shows COVID-19 is spreading too fast in Ottawa because of the everyday actions that bring us into close contact with others without masks on,” said Dr. Etches.

“We are falling behind and prevention is the only way now today that we can slow the crisis in the rest of our health system.”

Dr. Etches warned that the health care system and testing capacity in Ottawa is at capacity.

“As Ottawa’s medical officer of health, I’m sounding the alarm. This is our warning bell,” said Dr. Etches.

“With this spike we’ve entered crisis territory and if we do not slow the transmission if will lead to stricter lockdown, closure of business, public venues and even schools. No one wants this, I don’t want this.”

This is a developing story. CTV News Ottawa will update the story as more details become available.

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