A second and possibly third COVID-19 assessment centre will be ready to go in Ottawa within a week, Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said Thursday.
Ottawa opened its first novel coronavirus assessment centre at Brewer arena one week ago. It has been seeing more than 400 people a day.
News of new assessment centres came as Ottawa’s confirmed and probable case count reached 19. But Etches said the real number could be closer to 2,000 cases.
“We already can be very certain that there is community transmission because we wouldn’t have caught every case. I feel comfortable saying we need to act as if the virus is here because we don’t have a perfect system that would capture every single case.”
COVID-19 cases in Ottawa
One of those probable cases — an Ottawa resident about which no information has been released — is now hospitalized with COVID-19, said Etches. One previous Ottawa patient was also treated in hospital for COVID-19, but has since been discharged, she said. The remainder of confirmed or probable cases are recovering at home.
During a media availability, Etches again urged Ottawa residents to socially isolate themselves to slow spread of the illness and protect the health system that is likely to be overwhelmed by a rapid spike in severely ill patients.
COVID-19 in Ontario
“Social distancing is really important now.”
She also repeated a message she has been saying this week — that the city will soon begin limiting testing for the coronavirus, with a focus on health and frontline workers and the most sick and vulnerable. That includes people in long-term care residences and nursing homes, as well as inmates. That decision is, in part, due to a shortage of the swabs used in testing.
Etches said the new assessment centres are likely to focus on clinically assessing people for the novel coronavirus and determining whether they need to go to the hospital or if they should be isolated at home.
The city will also benefit from an additional lab for testing, which has been backlogged in Ottawa and around the province.
Etches said she appreciates that many people will be anxious if they can’t be tested to confirm whether or not they have COVID-19.
“Everyone would like to know if they are sick and whether this is COVID-19. I appreciate that. We just can’t test everyone who has respiratory symptoms and it would not change our approach.”
The best way to help the health system maintain the capacity it needs is to self isolate, she said.