Ottawa’s top doctor doesn’t recommend moving out of the orange-restrict zone for COVID-19 restrictions at this point

OTTAWA — A senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital says Ottawa is doing “fantastic” in the fight against COVID-19.

However, after three weeks of being in the “restrict” zone, Ottawa’s medical officer of health isn’t ready for Ottawa to move from orange to yellow on Ontario’s colour-coded tiered system for COVID-19 restrictions, and is urging all residents to take measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission in the community.

The Ontario government placed Ottawa in the “orange-restrict” zone on Nov. 7, with restrictions on restaurants, bars, fitness centres, sports teams and movie theatres. Among the restrictions, last call at bars and restaurants is 9 p.m. and establishments must close at 10 p.m. A maximum of four people can sit at tables in bars and restaurants.

Ottawa Public Health reported Wednesday that Ottawa’s cases per 100,000 is at 25.1 over the past seven days, and the positivity rate is at 1.6 per cent.

Despite the positive trends, Dr. Vera Etches told reporters, “I don’t recommend that we move into yellow at this point.”

“I do see that we are on the edge of yellow, but we haven’t met all the criteria for yellow and we don’t want to be in the situation where we’re having to go right back into orange,” said Dr. Etches.

“We want to have a clear sign that we are in the yellow category where the indictors are all aligned and we also have positive trends downwards. This virus is very hard to control, we see that around the world. We can’t just go back to everything’s open as if COVID isn’t here. We do have to continue with some controls that decrease the opportunity for COVID to be transmitted through the winter or through until we have a vaccine.”

The medical officer of health says the Ontario government has said a region must stay in a category for 28 days, meaning it would be Dec. 4 before Ottawa could move out of the orange zone.

“They’ve also said that they want health units to stay in a category for 28 days in order to see what the impact of the move into that category of the restrictions or less-restrictions in that category are accomplishing,” said Dr. Etches.

The thresholds for the “orange-restrict” zone are a incidence rate of 25 to 39.9 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 1.3 to 2.4 per cent.  The thresholds for the “yellow-protect” zone is a weekly incidence rate of 10 to 24.9 per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 0.5 to 1.2 per cent.

The Ontario government reviews the data weekly, and announces on Friday if health units will move to a new zone on the COVID-19 colour-coded tiered system.

“We need to proceed cautiously, and I do expect that if things continue to improve, we’ll be having a conversation with the province about yellow,” said Dr. Etches. “But at this point that’s not my recommendation.”

On Wednesday, Dr. Etches recommended residents limit holiday celebrations to members of their household only.

OTTAWA IS ‘DOING FANTASTIC’: EXPERT

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Dr. Doug Manuel of the Ottawa Hospital said Ottawa is “doing fantastic.”

“We’re bucking an international trend. I don’t really know another city like the size of Ottawa internationally right now that is doing down, getting things under control so quickly,” said Dr. Manuel.

“We’re projecting continued downward growth. We’re doing great! The problem is throughout the fall we’re realizing that you have to have really high levels of physical distancing … it’s really challenging to maintain that. We can’t look sidewalks, we can’t turn our back on COVID.”

Dr. Manuel, who sits on Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Table, says Ottawa is doing as “well as anyone out there” with decreasing COVID-19 transmission while reopening more businesses.

During a presentation to Council, Dr. Etches noted there is good news with a vaccine on the way, but everyone needs to take steps to limit COVID-19 transmission.

“We do see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of we can make it through to a day where we don’t need to be so cautious as we go about out daily lives, but this is not here yet and not going to arrive until we get through the winter,” said Dr. Etches.

“So our focus is again this balance between taking the measures we know will continue to reduce COVID in our community – the wearing masks, the keeping of two metres from others and that will allow us to have more businesses and activities available to do is.”

Ottawa Public Health recommends residents avoid the three Cs this winter: Crowded environments, close contacts and confined spaces.

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