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Ottawa reports 60 COVID-19 cases as elementary school closes due to outbreak

Global News logo Global News 2020-09-21 Craig Lord
a person holding a baseball bat: A mobile coronavirus testing team is set up at Monsignor Paul Baxter in Barrhaven on Monday and Tuesday to test members of the school community for the virus after it was forced to close due to an outbreak. © Global News A mobile coronavirus testing team is set up at Monsignor Paul Baxter in Barrhaven on Monday and Tuesday to test members of the school community for the virus after it was forced to close due to an outbreak.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa continues to surge as the city sees its first elementary school close due to an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa reported 60 new cases of the virus on Monday, according to Ottawa Public Health (OPH).

The local public health unit also reported two new deaths related to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the local death toll of the pandemic to 276.

Read more: Ontario reports 425 new coronavirus cases with majority in Toronto-area, Ottawa

There are currently 523 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, 324 of which are connected to residents below 40 years of age.

Ten people are now in hospital with COVID-19, two of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said last Friday that Ottawa has entered a “second wave” of the pandemic, as the rate of new infections is growing at an unsustainable rate.

What’s happening in schools?

Meanwhile, an elementary school in the Ottawa Catholic District School Board is closed for two weeks after two students and two staff tested positive for the virus.

OPH officially declared a coronavirus outbreak at Monsignor Paul Baxter in Barrhaven as of Sept. 18.

A school is determined to be in outbreak when two or more staff members or students contract the virus with a likelihood that at least one of the infections took place within the school.

All families at the school received a letter from OPH with directives on whether or not students should get tested for the virus.

A mobile unit is conducting targeted coronavirus testing at the school for staff, students and their families only. Other residents seeking a test at the pop-up site will not be admitted.

Students who were attending in-person classes at Monsignor Paul Baxter will be switching to online learning for the coming weeks.

Read more: Quebec City elementary school shutters for two weeks due to coronavirus outbreak

Monsignor Paul Baxter is the first school in Ottawa to close due to COVID-19.

Fellowes High School in nearby Pembroke, Ont., was the first in the province to do so after five cases of COVID-19 were linked to the school last week.

Nineteen schools in Ottawa have so far reported COVID-19 cases among staff or students, according to Ontario’s system tracking the virus in schools across the province.

What’s happening in long-term care homes?

The virus is also seeing a resurgence in Ottawa’s long-term care homes and other institutions.

There are currently 25 ongoing coronavirus outbreaks in Ottawa, with no new institutions reporting outbreaks on Monday.

Eleven long-term care homes in Ottawa are reporting outbreaks.

Among the hardest hit is West End Villa, where 11 people have now died in relation to COVID-19 during the current outbreak.

Read more: ‘They were supposed to keep her safe,’ says family of long-term care resident who died of COVID-19

The care facility has seen 63 residents and 22 staff members test positive for the virus since Aug. 30.

Extendicare, which runs West End Villa and nearly 80 other long-term care or retirement residences in Ontario, told Global News in a statement last week that it “cannot know how the virus entered West End Villa.”

A spokesperson said that it has implemented a twice-monthly testing program for all of its staff across Ontario, and while it has been able to implement weekly testing in some areas of the province, the labs in Ottawa have been unable to keep up with that frequency.

“The sharp rise in community cases, long line-ups at testing centres in Ottawa, limits on accurate contact tracing and increased pressure on the capacity of public health labs have created wide-spread challenges in the region. If we don’t receive results fast enough, we cannot effectively cohort and protect our people,” the spokesperson said.

What’s the deal with testing?

Testing continues to be a problem in Ottawa with more long lineups outside assessment centres.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH), which runs the Moodie Care Clinic in Ottawa’s west end, tweeted Monday that its testing centre was at capacity before noon.

The QCH, the Ottawa Hospital and OPH partnered with the Ottawa Senators over the weekend to open a pop-up drive-thru testing centre in the parking lot of the Canadian Tire Centre.

The initiative, aimed at alleviating some of the pressure on Ottawa’s other testing sites, saw 2,750 patients tested.

The Brewer Assessment Centre is implementing an appointment-based system to help tackle long lineups in Ottawa South, and community health centres are working on setting up a walk-in testing site to serve downtown residents in Sandy Hill.

The Wabano Centre said this week it would be offering appointment-only testing for Métis, Inuit and First Nations on Monday and Tuesday at its 299 Montreal Rd. offices.

Mayor Jim Watson said he was “very frustrated” with the testing situation in Ottawa during a recent interview with Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block.

“Clearly we have a capacity problem. And we’re not alone,” Watson said, citing similar lineups in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario.

He reiterated calls from public health officials this past week asking residents to stay home if they’re not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to avoid clogging up the system.

He contradicted statements from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who said during a meeting with fellow premiers in Ottawa on Friday that anyone who wants to get tested, should.

But Watson did indicate his support for the premier’s efforts to expand testing to Ontario’s pharmacies.

“That would take a lot of pressure off the main centres,” he said.

“There’s lots of capacity geographically spread around.”

Watson also noted that bylaw officers will be out in full force starting Monday, as the warning period ends for enforcement of the city’s indoor mask requirements.

Anyone flaunting the city’s rules mandating mask use in indoor public spaces will be subject to a $240 fine, while business operators found to be non-compliant with the mask bylaw could face a $580 fine.

“It’s a little bit of tough love because this is a serious, serious pandemic,” Watson said.


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