Côte Saint-Luc grapples with Montreal's highest per capita COVID-19 case count

According to Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, most of these recent cases are linked to the city's elementary schools and daycares.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein says most cases linked to schools, daycares

Côte Saint-Luc mayor Mitchell Brownstein became the first in the province to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces last year. Now, he's asking residents to double-mask as the city deals with a surge in cases. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein is calling on residents to take extra precautions as cases of COVID-19 surge in the community.

Over the past few weeks, Côte Saint-Luc has become the hardest hit municipality in the Montreal agglomeration, reporting an average of 641 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days — that's nearly three times the Montreal area average, which stands at about 224 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Brownstein says most of these cases have been appearing in children under 10, as several elementary schools and daycares in the area deal with outbreaks.

"Kids can't do much about it. One person has the virus and they're going to touch each other, so it passes quickly," said Brownstein. "And then when they go home, they spread it to their parents and siblings. 

According to the latest data from Quebec's Health Ministry, at least six elementary and high schools in Côte Saint-Luc are currently dealing with at least one active case of COVID-19. 

Brownstein's biggest concern right now is that some of these cases seem to be of the more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

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"The CIUSSS is saying basically the variant spreads quickly so once it gets into schools and it's brought home to families, the numbers can get very high," said Brownstein.

That's why Brownstein has started leaving robocalls for residents, reminding them to follow public health guidelines closely and recommending they start wearing a cloth mask over a procedural mask when going out in public. 

Last year, Côte Saint-Luc became the first city in the province to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces, and while Brownstein says he has no plans of making it mandatory to double-mask, he felt it important to inform his residents about the practice.

"Medical experts are saying if you wear the surgical mask covered by the cloth mask, you're having additional protection so we want people to have that option," said Brownstein. 

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton agrees that double-masking is a good idea, especially given the concern surrounding variants.

"The reason for that is to sort of improve the fit of the procedural mask by having that outside cloth mask, which essentially makes the mask fit tighter on your face," said Oughton.

Still, the most important thing for residents to keep in mind, Oughton said, is to keep doing the basics — hand-washing and physical distancing.

As for spread in schools, Oughton says he hopes the government's recent decision to make masks mandatory for all students in red zones will help the current situation. 

"That's certainly something that should reduce transmission," said Oughton. 

Concern over spring gatherings 

Brownstein is also asking seniors to keep physically distancing and to take extra care when interacting with their grandchildren. 

"Right now, it's really in the zero to nine-year-olds and the 30-year-olds, which, for the most part, are parents and it's staying in that group for now. We want to keep it there, so seniors should be vigilant," he said.

"Seniors who might think 'Oh, it's time to hug my grandchildren,' should be a little cautious." 

This is especially a concern, he said, because springtime holidays are coming up and some may be tempted to gather with their families. Oughton echoed those concerns. 

"We have to try to limit the numbers of gatherings and number of people present at these gatherings because these kinds of get-togethers are exactly the kinds of opportunities that could lead to further transmission, like we saw over Thanksgiving, like we saw over the Christmas period," he said. 

With files from Kwabena Oduro