Weekly coronavirus trends more valuable than daily, Ottawa Public Health official says

Ottawa is reporting 16 additional coronavirus cases on Wednesday following two days of reduced numbers, though public health officials are cautioning residents not to read too closely into the day-to-day reports.

Ottawa has now seen 2,576 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reported Wednesday afternoon there were 207 active cases of the virus in the city, contrasting a report from Ontario’s provincial database earlier in the day that showed only 182 active cases. OPH reported 196 active cases on Tuesday.

There were no new deaths linked to COVID-19 in Ottawa in the past 24 hours.

The City of Ottawa issued a memo Wednesday stating that the Foster Farm Community Centre, where a day-camp participant was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus on Saturday, is now officially considered an outbreak site.

No additional cases have yet been traced to the community centre, which has closed all camp programming for 14 days.

Meanwhile, Loblaw Companies Ltd. reported that three staff members at local stores have tested positive for the virus.

The grocer parent company said in an update on its website that two employees of the south-end Loblaws at 2210 Bank St. tested positive for the virus after last working on July 26 and Aug. 1. A staff member at the Shoppers Drug Mart at 4474 Bank St. tested positive as well, having last worked on July 22.

Ottawa’s latest daily coronavirus results follow just five new cases across Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa’s associate medical officer of health, said Wednesday he “wouldn’t read too much” into two days of lower figures, hypothesizing that lower testing volumes over the long weekend might have affected the previous two days’ results.

Rather, he pointed to the week-to-week figures that show Ottawa is effectively stemming the recent surge of cases.

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While OPH officials began to get worried in mid-July about a doubling of new cases week over week, Moloughney noted that last week’s overall increase was lower than the preceding week.

Ottawa reported 144 new coronavirus cases between July 19 and 25, but recorded fewer than that — only 69 — from July 26 to Aug. 1.

Despite the week-to-week progress, Moloughney noted that OPH heard reports about numerous parties over the long weekend where people were not physically distancing or wearing masks.

He pointed to ongoing confusion surrounding the provincial government’s directives on social circles and gathering limits as part of the issue.

When Stage 3 began and residents saw that indoor gathering limits could be extended to 50 people, he said many people forgot about physical distancing and wearing masks when interacting with anyone outside their social circle.

This also complicated the enforcement side of the pandemic, he said.

Though OPH does not handle ticketing in Ottawa — that’s the responsibility of bylaw and regulatory services — Moloughney noted that many of the problematic parties over the weekend likely would have been difficult to hand out tickets for, as they technically fell within provincial gathering limits.

Regardless of the rules, Moloughney reiterated the OPH stance that education trumps penalization in the pandemic.

“I think it’s better for people to understand (the risk) than to rely on enforcement,” he said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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