Coronavirus: Quebec Premier François Legault distributes masks outside Montreal Metro station

Qeubec Premier François Legault, Habs GM Marc Bergevin, forward Jonathan Drouin and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda distribute masks at Cadillac Metro station in Montreal on Friday, May 22, 2020.
Qeubec Premier François Legault, Habs GM Marc Bergevin, forward Jonathan Drouin and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda distribute masks at Cadillac Metro station in Montreal on Friday, May 22, 2020. Global News

Quebec Premier François Legault was at the Cadillac Metro station Friday morning distributing reusable face coverings to those who need them.

The government is strongly recommending Quebecers wear face masks when in public, especially on public transit and while shopping in places where keeping two metres apart is difficult,, as restrictions on the COVID-19 lockdown begin to ease.

Montreal’s regional public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin said Thursday that despite 328 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the city’s total to 23,064 cases, the overall situation seems to be improving.

The numbers may be encouraging, but both Drouin and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante warned that a successful reopening was a collective responsibility and urged Montrealers to follow public health guidelines, including wearing a mask.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Montreal officials announce new measures to support merchants as they reopen

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Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda clarified his position on face coverings on Friday when prompted by a journalist, who asked him why he was against using them at the beginning of the pandemic.

Arruda said he was never against the use of masks.

“I said the mask in and of itself wasn’t enough,” he said. “People needed to learn two things: stay two metres apart — which is the most important — wash your hands and practise proper respiratory hygiene.”

COVID-19: Mixed messages about mandatory face masks
COVID-19: Mixed messages about mandatory face masks

Arruda explained that wearing a mask is part of good respiratory etiquette but that you still risk contaminating yourself if you don’t wash your hands or if you stay close to others.

“I wasn’t against the mask, but we had to learn to walk before starting to run,” he said.

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Also on hand to distribute masks were Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin and team general manager Marc Bergevin, who were sporting face coverings with the iconic team logo.

READ MORE: Côte Saint-Luc to make masks mandatory in public indoor spaces

Legault was counting on their star power to encourage others to follow suit and don masks.

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“It’s a nice gesture to incite people to wear masks,” he said, thanking the Habs for showing up.

Bergevin said it was important for the team to step up.

“People look to the Canadiens not just for sports but as part of Quebec culture,” he said, adding that they agreed to take part at the request of the premier.

Legault, for his part, couldn’t keep himself from talking hockey.

“I see two scenarios,” he said. “We aim for the Stanely Cup in the short term and we keep Weber and Price, or we aim for the Stanley Cup in the medium term and we exchange them.”

Bergevin, feeling the heat, stayed mum, while Drouin opted for the short-term scenario.

“I like Weber and Price,” he said.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus — West Island makes masks available to seniors

Legault also sought common ground with the team, speaking about his interactions with journalists.

“There are nights when things just don’t work, and it’s not because you don’t try,” Legault said. “But you have to tell journalists tonight I could have done more. It’s not fun.”

Legault went on to explain he could empathize with the Canadiens.

“It’s tough the relationship with journalists. I have that every day now so I understand you,” he said.

Bergevin avoided the topic, describing his relationship with the media as “a good one.”

STM mask distribution

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) will begin distributing face coverings for transit users on May 25.

Thanks to the support of the Quebec government, the transit agency says it will be able to distribute 300,000 reusable masks by the end of June.

The STM says that for the first week, masks will be given out during the morning rush hour at Metro stations and bus terminals in hot zones, including Honoré-Beaugrand, Henri-Bourassa, St-Michel, Pie-IX, Radisson, Sauvé, Joliette, Crémazie, Laurier, Viau, Cadillac, Langelier, Jarry and De l’Église.

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Areas with high commuter traffic are also being targeted, such as Côte-Vertu, Angrignon, Vendôme, Bonaventure, Plamondon, Berri-UQAM, Snowdon, Lionel-Groulx, Jolicoeur, Jean-Talon, Guy-Concordia, Fabre, Frontenac, Beaubien, Sherbrooke, Champs-de-Mars, Rosemont, Papineau, Mont-Royal, Villa-Maria, Côte-Ste-Catherine, Verdun, Du Collège, Parc and Monk.

Some 10,000 masks are also being mailed to the transit agency’s paratransit users.