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'Finding balance between risks and benefits:' Ottawa top doctor on easing COVID-19 restrictions

So far, local health officials estimate that only a small per cent of Ottawa's population has developed immunity to the virus.
2020-03-13 Dr. Vera Etches Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, March 13, 2020. Photo/ City of Ottawa online stream

While more than a month of physical distancing and self-isolation has left many of us hungry for socialization and worries about our jobs and businesses, local health officials warn that lifting any COVID-19 restrictions will need to be done slowly and gradually, to avoid the virus spreading like wildfire.

"Sometimes I think of where we are as like a forest with a lot of dry kindling," said Dr. Doug Manuel, epidemiologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. "We had the warning, the lightning strike came down and we were able to put out the fire but we really had to control the whole forest."

He warns that if restrictions were suddenly lifted, we could quickly find ourselves back to where we were in March, with the number of cases doubling every couple of days -- which carries the risk of overwhelming local hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units.

"There's still so much kindling," said Dr. Manuel.

"COVID-19 will be a part of our lives, and how we live, into the forseeable future," said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health. "So we need to find a balance of the risks and the benefits of easing restrictions."

So far, local health officials estimate that only a few per cent of Ottawa's population has developed immunity to the virus.




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Jason White

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