Ottawa's public health authority says an uptick in COVID-19 cases since Ontario's Step 3 reopening is expected, but is urging people not to let up on testing and safety measures — even if they're fully vaccinated.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is encouraging Ottawans with their first and second doses to get tested for COVID-19 if they develop symptoms of the respiratory illness.
"We are seeing in the last few days more cases, more people who are testing positive for COVID than we have in recent weeks," said Brent Moloughney, deputy medical officer of health for OPH.
"On the one hand, we sort of anticipate that because as things reopen and people interact more, there's more opportunities for the virus to transmit. And the reality is: the pandemic is not over."
The recommendation comes as key COVID-19 measures are rising across Ottawa. The R(t) — or number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case — has been above one for much of the week. The spread of the coronavirus is considered under control if that figure is kept below one.
However, Moloughney said the proportion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is low, and wastewater testing does not give cause for alarm.
OPH is still recommending anyone with COVID-19 symptoms get tested. The purpose of the vaccines, said Moloughney, is to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.
"It's still possible to be become infected; it's still possible to have symptoms; and still possible to transmit to others," he said.
Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of contracting the disease, but doesn't eliminate it. With people expanding their social circles under looser Step 3 restrictions, Moloughney stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.
Vaccination rates across age groups are uneven, and experts are noticing lower vaccination rates among young people aged 18 to 29.
OPH said it's trying to improve vaccine uptake by expanding access through initiatives like mobile clinics. The health authority is taking requests from workplaces, places of worship and community settings that want a mobile clinic sent to that site.