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Ottawa's top doctor calling for residents to reevaluate social circles as COVID-19 numbers rise

She asks residents to think about who they are spending time in close contact with and how big their social circles really are.
2020-09-03 Dr. Vera Etches Ottawa Chief Medical Officer of Health CK1
Ottawa Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, September 3, 2020. Chris Kurys/ OttawaMatters.com

Ottawa's chief medical officer of health thinks the recently climbing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the community are largely due to residents having lost sight of guidelines put in place to keep transmission of the virus low.

Dr. Vera Etches says it isn't just people throwing parties that are causing spikes in new cases, it's people going out for drinks after work with others who aren't part of their social circles or even having family get-togethers where circles are again being mixed.

Speaking with the media on Tuesday, following news of five COVID-19-related deaths at an Ottawa long-term care home this week, Dr. Etches reiterated that residents must reevaluate their close contact situations.

"Close contacts are people we see, particularily indoors, without masks where two metre distance is not kept, for more than 15 minutes."

She's asking that residents start to cut back on their close contacts, as social circles are supposed to include just 10 people.

"It may not be clear to people that these groups of 10 cannot mix with other circles without greatly increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. So less is better," says Dr. Etches. "My strong recommendation is to prioritize your household members and any essential supports such as childcare workers, neighbours that help you, [or] grandparents. Keep distance, wear masks and stay outside with everyone else."

The chief medical officer of health says, "Ask yourself, how many close contacts have you had recently? Are you spending time with the same people everyday or different groups? Do you have an understanding with your close contacts, not to have close contacts with others outside of your group, or are you potentially connected to a long chain of transmission?"

Dr. Etches wants parents to know that it's just as important as ever to take extra precautions at home, even if their children might be having more close contacts in school. She explains that schools have extra precautions in place, and even though some kids might see each other at school, it doesn't make large gatherings with school friends outside of classes a good idea.

The less transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, the better its going to be for residents of long-term care and retirement homes as well, who are at the greatest risk if they are infected with the virus, according to Dr. Etches. 

She says she's working closely with local long-term care home owners and the provincial government to make sure all COVID-19 guidlines are being followed.




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