Rise in COVID-19 cases causing concern as Montreal festival season begins

The Montreal Jazz Festival is set to begin normally for the first time since 2019. The Canadian Press

As we march into the heart of the first real Montreal summer since 2019, you’re not alone if you’ve been hearing about people close to you catching COVID-19.

“Last week like two, three people in my neighbourhood and friends around me got it,” said Mathias Laliberté as he walked down Mont-Royal Ave. “I think a lot of people are getting it right now.”

Dr. Christos Karatzios, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital said he believes the province is in a “wave.”

He said he and his whole family recently caught the virus after his young children brought it home.

“My whole family got sick and thankfully we did not get that ill,” he recounted.

Read more: What causes long COVID? Canadian researchers think they’ve found a key clue

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He was one of over 5,000 Quebec health-care workers off the job due to COVID-19 until very recently,

On June 19, Quebec counted 532 new cases and 1029 total hospitalizations.

On June 27, there were over 1,200 new cases declared, and over 1,200 total hospitalizations.

“For sure, the attitude that the pandemic is over and that it’s done with has led to this,” said Karatzios.

Summer events around the city are in full swing and the Montreal International Jazz Festival is about to get going, leaving many to wonder what the implications will be on the epidemiological situation,.

“Obviously if you have more contact, more interaction, that will certainly lead to an increase in the number of COVID cases,” said Dr. Karl Weiss, the Jewish General Hospital’s Chief of Infectious Diseases. “But the number of severe COVID cases is not going up dramatically.”

Europe is seeing a spike in cases, especially of Omicron subvariants including the newer BA4 and BA5

Those have begun to pop up here, too.

“We are seeing many reinfections, but people are not necessarily very sick,” Weiss explained.

Older and immunocompromised people might want to take extra precautions

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Karatzios said he’s avoiding indoor events and wearing his mask regularly, even if he sometimes gets funny looks.

“I’m more conservative. I’m more of a precautionary principle, you know, step wisely and step gingerly before you leap ahead,” he explained.

Read more: FDA advisers meet to discuss future of COVID-19 vaccine design

Meanwhile, Dr. Weiss says don’t forget COVID exists and remains a risk, but don’t be too worried.

“I think from my personal perspective, I mean, there is no cause for concern here. I went back myself to a more normal life, and I think we should enjoy life the way it should be, the way it used to be,” said Weiss.

He says hospitals are much better equipped now than they were in the early waves, and that many COVID patients have the virus, but are there because of other conditions.

Long COVID remains a concerning mystery, but Karatzios sees hope in a new vaccine that is supposed to arrive in the coming months.

“The bivalent vaccine that Moderna has coming out, it does contain an immunity against the new variants,” he said.

With no new restrictions on the horizon at least for now, the summer COVID strategy is up to you.

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COVID-19 summer situation – Jun 28, 2022

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