Ottawa Public Health reported a record spike in COVID-19 cases Saturday as the city poured into the warm sunshine at the start of a 28-day lockdown gamely trying to keep us apart.
The unit reported 240 additional confirmed cases, one new death and 44 people in hospital, including 14 in intensive care — those numbers, too, on the increase.
Ontario numbers also soared — more than 6,100 new confirmed cases for the first two days of April — more evidence the city and province are indeed in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic, just over a year old.
On a beautiful spring day where temperatures exceeded 10 C, shoppers typically lined up on sidewalks outside smaller shops operating with new capacity restrictions, but even Mayor Jim Watson expressed concern over the size of crowds at bigger box stores.
Watson said he was in touch with Anthony Di Monte, the city’s general manager of emergency and protective services, after seeing photos of crowded parking lots and sizeable crowds at big box stores, which have higher capacity limits than smaller retailers. He wants the city to be “proactive” by paying visits to these larger outlets.
“I’ve seen (on social media) photos of these huge lineups and packed parking lots,” Watson said Saturday while strolling down Wellington Street West, “and that’s always frustrated me.”
He said he asked Di Monte, who also oversees bylaw enforcement, to look into whether capacity limits were being observed at the larger stores. “We should be making sure these rules are enforced.”
Not only does crowding at the bigger stores create a health hazard, but it’s simply not fair to little shops that can only allow three or four customers at a time, the mayor said.
Many people on social media wondered about crowds in the ByWard Market, where strollers congregated in front of the Market building in apparent defiance of rules restricting outdoor crowds to five or fewer with proper social distancing. But a staffer at the market said the core of the building was closed and about half the tables had been removed from the outdoor plaza.
In the modified grey zone that blankets Ontario, supermarkets and other grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores are limited to 50-per-cent capacity. Other retailers, including big box stores, discount stores, hardware stores, garden centres and liquor and cannabis stores are restricted to 25-per-cent capacity, half of what’s allowed in the red zone.
The city’s effort to get vaccines to residents through selected pharmacies also got off to a confusing start. The province announced Thursday that 34 pharmacies had been chosen to distribute the AstraZeneca vaccine to those 55 and older, starting as early as Saturday.
However, calls to three big chains — Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharmasave and Rexall — were met with recordings directing callers to websites to register for eventual notifications to make appointments. There was no indication how long that might take.
The city reported 26 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant of concern and six of the B.1.351 (S. African) VOC. More than 560 cases are under analysis for VOC, and four deaths are attributed to the variants.
Ottawa’s incidence rate climbed to 104.3 per 100,000 from 97.2 reported Friday, and the positivity rate for testing was up to 6.5 per cent.
The R(t) number, which measures the spread of the virus from an infected person, was 1.16. A rate above 1.0 means the virus is spreading, below 1.0 is a signal the virus is subsiding.
Easter Sunday promises to be a quiet one in terms of religious observance. On one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, churches are limited to 15 per cent capacity, half the previous limit of 30 per cent, causing headaches for churches that had already taken reservations.
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By the numbers
(as of Friday afternoon)
6,098: New confirmed cases (3,009 on Friday, 3,089 on Thursday)
39: Deaths over the previous 48 hours.
358,558: Total cases
7,428: Total deaths
2,042: Total B.1.1.7 (UK) variant cases confirmed
70: Total B.1.351 (South African) variant cases confirmed
102: Total P.1 (Brazilian) variant cases confirmed
796: New hospital (two days)
451: In ICU
261: On ventilator
121,400: Tests administered (Thursday and Friday)
2,424,063: doses of the vaccine administered
2,192,253: Total doses administered
315,820: People fully vaccinated
52,532: Tests conducted in previous 24 hours
12,551,173: Total tests conducted
(as of Friday at 3 p.m.)
240: New confirmed cases
17,825: Total cases
1: New death
467: Total deaths
44: In hospital
14: In ICU
104.3: Seven-day COVID incidence rate, per 100,000 population
6.5: Per cent positivity rate
1.16: Seven-day R(t) number
26: Total B.1.1.7 (UK) variant cases confirmed
6: Total B.1.351 (South African) variant cases confirmed
0: Total P.1 (Brazilian) variant cases confirmed