Montreal public health authorities warned COVID-19 cases will likely continue to climb in the city as students head back to class, asking people to get vaccinated and exercise caution in the coming weeks.
Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of the local health department, said a fourth wave of the pandemic cannot be avoided but measures can be taken to fight it. All indicators associated with the disease have been on the rise in recent weeks.
“We have an average of 170 new cases each day and more than half of our cases are associated with the Delta variant,” she told reporters on Wednesday. It was her first briefing since June.
“We had those same indicators at the end of September (2020) so we haven’t seen the effect of opening schools. We expect to see a larger number of cases in the next few weeks.”
Drouin said Montreal’s test-positivity rate sits around three per cent, with some harder-hit neighbourhoods closer to five per cent.
As cases creep upward, hospitalizations rates and intensive care admissions remain low at the moment. While the health-care network still has capacity, Drouin said projections show hospital numbers will increase.
As of Wednesday, there are 46 outbreaks in the region, 11 of which are associated with dancing events. COVID-19 infections were reported among both dancers and spectators, according to Drouin.
In order to fight the fourth wave, public health authorities are asking Montrealers to be prudent. This includes wearing masks indoors, keeping a safe distance from others and frequent handwashing.
Drouin also agreed with the Health Department’s announcement earlier in the day asking employers to delay bringing back workers to the office.
“It’s just one measure that we are adding to make sure that we are not putting oil on the fire and to try to reduce the incidence of outbreaks in those settings,” Drouin said about delaying office work.
When it comes to schools, Drouin said she is pleased with Quebec’s decision to make masks compulsory in classrooms across nine regions, including Montreal.
As a result, the department will also launch a campaign blitz in high schools to boost vaccination rates and offer shots to eligible students and staff. Drouin says only 53 per cent of eligible children between the ages of 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated in the region.
“It’s not enough at a collective level an impact to contain outbreaks,” she said.
Drouin said public health will need to have “a close look at the impact of reopening the schools and see if we have to add more measures.”
The vaccine is a key tool in this ongoing health crisis, Drouin said, noting it helps reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and the symptoms of the disease. High vaccination rates in the city should protect hospitals from being overwhelmed, she added.
“The message is to get vaccinated,” she said.
—with files from Global News’ Olivia O’Malley and The Canadian Press