OPH says 82 new cases today, don’t make plans for Thanksgiving

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is confirming 82 new cases of COVID-19 in the city, as well as new outbreaks at Montfort Hospital and St. Vincent Hospital.

The new cases make up nearly a quarter of the 409 reported across Ontario on Thursday.

OPH says two staff members and one patient in Montfort Hospital’s 3C wing, and two patients at St. Vincent’s 5 North, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Those facilities are two of 29 Ottawa institutions listed by OPH as dealing with outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

Wednesday’s 82 new cases are the second most ever reported in a single day. The highest came earlier this week, with 93.

Active cases are up to 587 in Ottawa, according to OPH. There are 14 residents in hospital with COVID-19 and three in intensive care.

No new deaths are being reported, which keeps the local pandemic death toll at 280.

Overall, there have been 3,919 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since March, with 3,052 resolved.

A dramatic tripling of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the past month, mostly among young people, has prompted the prime minister to declare the arrival of the second wave of the pandemic and that Canadians likely won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving.

“In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” Justin Trudeau said in a rare television address to the nation Wednesday evening.   “We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring.”

Trudeau said Canadians can’t do anything to change the numbers now, or even tomorrow.

“But what we can change is where we are in October, and in to the winter,” he said.  “It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the country had seen an average of more than 1,100 new cases of the novel coronavirus a day this past week compared with about 380 a day in mid-August.

“Canada is at a crossroads with the COVID-19 epidemic trajectory,” Tam said before Trudeau’s address. “Unless public health and individual protective measures are strengthened and we work together to slow the spread of the virus, the situation is on track for a big resurgence in a number of provinces.”

While the new cases were primarily among young adults, more than 400 schools in Quebec and another 153 in Ontario reported at least one case of the illness. The figures from the group COVID Ecoles Quebec and the Ontario government came as authorities seek ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 among younger people.

Data from Ontario show cases among those in their 20s have risen sharply in the past month, with one expert attributing the increase in part to the reopening of schools and universities.

In an effort to tackle the problem, several provinces, cities and universities have warned of stiff fines for violating COVID-19 restrictions. The worrisome upward trend in new cases came as the federal Liberal government laid out its plan to take on the second wave.

“To prevent small clusters from becoming major outbreaks, communities may need to enact short-term closure orders,” the government said in its throne speech.

Stringent lockdowns in the spring caused unprecedented economic disruption, prompting the government to spend billions of dollars on supports as unemployment skyrocketed.

The throne speech promised, among other things, an extension of the federal wage-subsidy program until next summer, more aid for businesses and help to boost testing capacity. People in various cities have waited for hours or even days for virus testing.

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada, while the cumulative case count has been edging toward the 150,000 mark.

Ontario’s more than 48,000 reported cases account for 33 per cent nationally, and 31 per cent of fatalities

Ontario, which has shown a steady increase in new cases since mid-August after months of declines, reported 335 new cases Wednesday and another three deaths. Almost 70 per cent of new infections were in people under the age of 40.

“When there’s so much in the community, it can escalate into the populations with more vulnerability,” Ottawa’s chief medical officer Dr. Vera Etches said yesterday.

Ontario data indicates new cases among people in their 20s have reached similar levels to those seen among people in their 80s in mid-April. Along with school re-openings, Dr. Brian Ward, a professor of medicine at McGill University, cited bars and parties as key factors, along with a “general sense of invulnerability” among younger people.

“COVID fatigue also clearly plays a role,” Ward said.