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Montreal public health warns recent coronavirus outbreaks linked to private gatherings

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Montreal public health urges citizens to exercise more caution in private gatherings' Coronavirus: Montreal public health urges citizens to exercise more caution in private gatherings
Montreal public health director Mylene Drouin speaks about the COVID-19 situation in Montreal – Sep 9, 2020

Montreal public health is calling on citizens to exercise more caution to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus amid an uptick in cases in the province.

Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of public health, said recent outbreaks in the city and cases in schools are tied to private gatherings such as dinner parties, post-sport activities, weddings and barbecues.

“One of the messages to the population is we truly have to increase our vigilance in our social activities with people we know — our brothers, our sisters, our friends that we invite over for dinner,” she said.

Public health has identified 69 cases in 64 Montreal schools. Drouin said there have been two small outbreaks at two schools, including one situation where a teacher transmitted the virus to students.

“Most of the acquisition was done in private gatherings,” Drouin said, adding the start of the school year has gone relatively well despite the pandemic.

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She said the good news is the virus is mostly under control in work environments, where there have been 20 outbreaks. Public health is also looking at one outbreak in a daycare.

Over the last six months, Montreal has been hard hit by the pandemic — but the Quebec government reports the region is currently at the lowest level of its new colour-coded alert system for the virus.

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However, Drouin warns a growing number of cases and higher positivity rates in recent weeks means Montreal could reach the next level, which calls for an “early warning.”

“If we continue with the trend, we can imagine in a week we will end up in the yellow zone,” she said.

Most of Quebec remains in the green or vigilance level. There are four regions — Quebec City, the Eastern Townships, Laval and Outaouais — considered to be in the yellow zone.

To date, there have been 30,192 COVID-19 cases in Montreal. The region accounts for roughly half of the province’s death toll with 3,474 fatalities linked to the virus.

Long lines for testing clinics

Montreal public health also attributed long lines outside of testing centres to back to school.

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“What we’ve seen with the reopening of schools is that when there was one case in one school, the parents were preoccupied and went for a screening test when it wasn’t indicated,” said Drouin.

Click to play video: 'West Island COVID-19 screening clinic overloaded with patients' West Island COVID-19 screening clinic overloaded with patients
West Island COVID-19 screening clinic overloaded with patients – Sep 9, 2020

In Beaconsfield, some people reported standing outside the clinic for hours in recent days. Alex Nicholson says he went to get tested after a reported case at his children’s school.

“My wife was here,” he said. “It was a very long line. It’s a very long wait anyway.”

“And what my kids were saying when that they were there they recognized all the kids there. It was everyone from the school who were getting tested.”

READ MORE: 15 coronavirus cases reported at several schools on Montreal’s south shore

Drouin says students who come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 at school will be contacted by authorities.

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“We’re saying that if your children do not have any symptoms and if you are not in a school where there is a case and where you have been contacted by public health, it is not necessary to have a screening test,” she said.

Despite the rising number of cases, Drouin says the West Island has been spared the worst of the uptick.

“I think the west is one of our sectors with the lowest number of cases and with the lowest positivity rates that we that we have in Montreal,” she said.

The update comes as a new testing centre opened in Côte Saint-Luc in the morning. The clinic is only available by appointment on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday each week.

With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and Brayden Jagger-Haines

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