With social gatherings driving new COVID-19 cases, Montreal nears red alert level

Dr. Mylène Drouin says if the community transmission does not get under control, the city could soon become a red zone.

Public health director says schools will likely stay open if Montreal becomes red zone

Montreal's director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, says there are reasons to be optimistic regarding the region's COVID-19 situation. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

As COVID-19 spreads through the community largely through private parties, Montreal's director of public health is recommending that people not gather with friends and family in their homes.

Dr. Mylène Drouin said those outbreaks can lead to children or teachers unknowingly bringing the virus into classrooms.

If the community transmission does not get under control, the city could soon become a red zone.

"I think people have forgotten the two metres is the most important thing to respect," said Drouin on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"If it is not essential, we should limit contacts at this time."

The city's public health authority reported 247 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, more than 100 cases compared to a day earlier.

Montreal is currently at the orange level of the province's alert system, which means tighter restrictions on gatherings and bars must stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m.

Discussions are currently happening over what a red alert would look like.

WATCH | Here is how Quebec's alert system works:

What's behind the recent surge in cases?

1 year ago
Montreal's director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, says it's not as simple as blaming it on school reopening. 3:32

Keeping schools open a priority

Drouin said that a complete shutdown as seen at the end of March is unlikely for now, and that keeping schools open is a priority.

"It is important for [students] to be in an environment where they can develop themselves and learn," she said.

Drouin said that public health also learned from the "collateral impact" of shutting down many sectors of the economy all at once last spring.

The province looks at three criteria when determining whether to increase the alert level: the number of new cases, how the disease is spreading and region's health-care capacity.

Drouin said the health-care capacity remains at the "pre-alert" stage — but the number of new cases has hit the threshold for a red alert for three days this week.

Public health is currently investigating 75 outbreaks in Montreal, most of which are not generating many secondary and tertiary cases, Drouin said.

But the problem is that those that are not contained can spread into schools, potentially infecting the classmates in their bubble and in turn those students' families.

"We have to react right now," she said. "Currently we have community transmission in the young adult population."

If Montrealers start to take these restrictions more seriously, she said we should see the results in about 10 days.

"Maybe we can flatten the curve. We were able to do that last spring," she said.

WATCH | If Montreal turns into a red zone, will there be another lockdown?

How does Quebec's COVID-19 alert system work?

1 year ago
Quebec has unveiled a new, colour-coded COVID-19 alert system. Here's how it works. 1:55

A different kind of Halloween

On Thursday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé urged the public not to have people over at all, including for Thanksgiving dinner next month, in order to celebrate Christmas with some semblance of normalcy.

But Drouin said don't expect a normal Halloween.

She said guidelines for Halloween will be given on the provincial level, and they are still being discussed.

"If we have a Halloween, it certainly won't be the same as the other years before," she said.

"I wouldn't invest in a costume that's really expensive at this time."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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