Ontario may need to extend lockdown to bring COVID-19 numbers down, Eastern Ontario top doctor says

OTTAWA — As Ontario reports more than 2,900 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time ever, Eastern Ontario’s top doctor suggests the numbers mean the COVID-19 lockdown will not end in 28 days.

Public Health Ontario reported 2,923 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 64 cases in Ottawa and 16 in Eastern Ontario.

“That tells me that, we still got a lot of work to do. It also tells me that again most of them are in Toronto,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health.

“I’ll be honest with you – I’m just a bit discouraged with those numbers.”

The record 2,923 new cases of COVID-19 comes five days after Ontario entered a strict province-wide lockdown, forcing nearly all non-essential businesses to close. The lockdown is scheduled to last until Jan. 23 for all regions in southern Ontario, including Ottawa and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

“The numbers are going up. I think we need to just continue doing what we’re doing, stay home. It’s disappointing, but again it’s going to take a while for this thing to turn around,” said Dr. Roumeliotis, noting the numbers do not reflect the start of the province-wide shutdown.

“Is a month enough? I’m not even sure now.”

Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Roumeliotis during “Ottawa at Work” if the lockdown would be extended next month.

“In certain areas, yep!” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

The Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health says there are several factors to consider when looking at extending the lockdown, including rate of growth, hospitalization rates and the ability to do contract tracing.

“I can tell you I don’t see these numbers going down dramatically for at least another couple of weeks. Because of Christmas; just because of the volume of these numbers,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

Dr. Roumeliotis admitted he was being “uncharacteristically pessimistic” about the COVID-19 situation, adding, “on the other hand we got to be realistic as well, these numbers are really shattering every record that we’ve had since March.”

While the 64 cases in Ottawa on Wednesday remains steady with previous days this week, Dr. Roumeliotis said the COVID-19 wastewater levels are starting to go up.

“That tells us there is activity in the area.”

On Monday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said on Twitter that “COVID-19 signal in our city’s wastewater is increasing more steeply again and Ottawa’s percent of tests coming back positive has jumped two per cent.”

“Signs that more of us could pass on the virus when in close contact with others.”

Mayor Jim Watson and Dr. Etches said last week that they asked Ontario to consider a 14-day lockdown for Ottawa instead of 28 days.

Dr. Roumeliotis said he’d be surprised if a 14-day lockdown is enough for Ottawa right now.

“I’ll be very surprised if a two-week period, I don’t think is going to be applicable.”

On Wednesday, Ottawa Public Health reported Ottawa’s percent positivity rate increased to 2.5 per cent for Dec. 23-29 from two per cent, while Ottawa’s cases per 100,000 jumped to 40.1 cases over the past seven days.

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