Lack of evidence means COVID-19 levels in Ottawa “far beyond” reported: Dr. Etches – Ottawa | The Canadian News

Ottawa’s chief physician says she is convinced that COVID-19 screening centers are not detecting a large number of Omicron infections across the city as testing capacity is overwhelmed and vaccines are prioritized.

Ottawa Public Health said Wednesday that the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate for the past week reached 10.5 percent, down from 8.7 percent in the prior period.

Meanwhile, the local health unit reported 387 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, approaching an all-time high. Known active cases in the city amount to 2,435.

But with significantly limited testing capacity, Ottawa’s medical health official believes that likely won’t show the full picture of COVID-19 locally.

“I have no doubt that we have widespread COVID transmission in Ottawa, far beyond what we are detecting,” he told the media in a briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

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His comments come amid a new isolation guide for Ottawa residents this week. Anyone with a COVID-19 symptom, such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, or muscle aches, is expected to assume they have contracted the virus and self-isolate, even if they can’t get tested.

That person’s household contacts must also self-isolate for a period of 10 days.

Testing is being prioritized for essential workers, such as hospital and long-term care staff, who often need urgent testing to see if they can safely start work. For everyone else, the assumption that it is COVID-19 is enough to take steps to prevent transmission, Etches explained.

“We do not need the test to take the measures that will prevent continuous transmission … What we are seeing is that it must also be your home, because it is that transmittable,” he said.

“That’s a lot of isolation … but it will allow us to keep things manageable.”

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Ontario to prioritize rapid access to testing for ‘high-risk contact health workers’ if supply is limited

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Etches said there appears to be sufficient supply of PCR test kits and laboratory capacity to process the tests, but the workflow is getting complicated when it comes to people administering the tests and workers on the data entry side.

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Ontario Health is looking for ways to address testing gaps in the province, including the ability to call in third-party labs to help ease the burden, Etches said.

On Monday, three community health centers in Ottawa halted their trial operations and shifted their resources to the vaccination and booster campaign.

While the lack of access to timely testing can be frustrating, Etches said Wednesday there is a clear reason to prioritize vaccines over testing, especially for vulnerable populations.

“It is because vaccination is what will save lives. It is important. If we have to choose between a test and a vaccine for an older adult, we want that older adult to receive that vaccine as soon as possible, ”he said.

“No test is required to take protective action. We can still protect people against COVID transmission by isolating ourselves when we are sick, so that would be a secondary priority. “

There are currently six people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ottawa, none of whom are in intensive care.

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Etches said the Omicron surge has occurred very rapidly in Ottawa, first detected in sewage locally on Dec. 12, even though some cases appeared before then, and hospitalizations are likely. catch up the more it spreads in the community.

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Older adults are at a higher risk of hospitalization, but they are likely not the first to be infected with Omicron, which is mostly seen in younger age groups today.

Etches cautioned that Omicron will reach that vulnerable population quickly if residents are not careful during the holidays, especially when it comes to intergenerational reunions between families.

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