Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health has warned that the city could have a lot more cases of novel coronavirus than we might think. In a press conference on Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches estimated that up to 34,000 people could have COVID-19 in Ottawa. Her comments come as the number of cases of the disease has spiked across Ontario.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Ottawa’s top doctor confirmed that there could be between 11,000 and 34,000 cases of COVID-19 in the capital, despite Ottawa Public Health reporting just 429.

According to Etches, thousands more people in the city are likely to have the disease, but have been unable to get officially diagnosed due to the limited criteria for testing suspected cases.

For this reason, the importance of continuing to practice safe social distancing is paramount, says Dr. Etches.

For now, projections show that the city should be able to keep the number of cases of COVID-19 stable, while hospitals continue to increase their intensive care capacities. 

This will only work, however, if locals continue to practice self-isolation when sick, and social distancing otherwise.

In fact, she confirmed on Wednesday, failing to take adequate precaution right now, could mean that pandemic won't peak in Ottawa until the end of the summer or even early fall.

Dr. Etches’ comments come as Premier Doug Ford slammed the number of tests being carried out in Ontario as “unacceptable.”

Speaking on Wednesday, a frustrated Ford explained, "I may not understand health, but what I understand are numbers. We also understand that countries that have tested and ramped up testing have shown results."

He went on, "Now, my patience has run thin and no more excuses. It's unacceptable. We have the capacity, now the testing capabilities, the assessment centres."

These messages from both Ford and Dr. Etches come just a few days after it was revealed that Ontario has been testing fewer cases than many other Canadian provinces. Additionally, the number of people getting tested in the province is going down, rather than up.

On Monday, Ottawa's first dedicated COVID-19 care clinic opened, located within the D. Aubrey Moodie Intermediate School on Moodie Drive.

The middle school has become a huge assessment and treatment centre for those suffering with symptoms of respiratory illness, and it has the resources to assess up to 200 patients every day.

On Wednesday, Ontario had the biggest single-day increase in cases so far, with 550 new people being diagnosed.

If you’re worried about the symptoms of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has created an online self-assessment tool, which aims to give next-step advice to anybody who thinks they may be affected.

*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.

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