COVID-19 in Quebec: 69 more deaths as containment efforts focus on Montreal's north and east end

Testing is now available to residents of Montreal's Saint-Michel neighbourhood who show symptoms, regardless of immigration status or whether they are eligible for provincial health coverage.

Montreal remains epicentre of virus in Quebec with about half of confirmed cases

Some Montreal sidewalks have been temporarily expanded to make it easier for residents to keep two metres' distance from each other. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Quebec has 31,865 confirmed cases. The increase from yesterday includes 892 new cases and 1,317 cases from last month that hadn't yet been tabulated because of a technical problem.
  • Another 69 people have died, bringing the total death toll to 2,205
  • There are 1,754 people in hospital, including 218 in intensive care. Here's a guide to the numbers.
  • Quebec will increase testing to 14,000 a day, including randomized testing.
  • A mobile testing clinic in Saint-Michel is now open to residents showing symptoms.
  • Some retail businesses outside the greater Montreal area will reopen on Monday. We've updated our guide to what's open and closed.

The president of the association representing Quebec's emergency room doctors says he is "relieved" to hear the health minister admit the Montreal area is not yet ready for deconfinement.

Dr. Bernard Mathieu says the health-care network is overwhelmed in the region, and it is unclear if metropolitan Montreal has reached the peak yet.

The city has about half of the province's 31,865 confirmed cases of the virus, and several Montreal-area hospitals have seen outbreaks. 

That includes Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, where Mathieu works in the ER.

He says that he's yet to see a decrease in hospitalizations.

"On the contrary, we see our needs increase each day," he said. "This is not the time to have more sick people in hospitals." 

He said the situation in the province's emergency rooms, however, does seem to have improved from last month.

As of Sunday morning, only two ERs in the Montreal area were at more than 100 per cent capacity: Lakeshore General Hospital at 103 per cent, and the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal at 110 per cent.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said Friday that the rest of the province is ready for a gradual easing of containment measures, "but for the greater Montreal region, we are not there for the moment."

Starting tomorrow, retail stores may open in the rest of the province, and on May 11 elementary school classes resume. For Montreal, the reopening of businesses and schools is happening a week later.

Premier François Legault has said that the planned deconfinement of Montreal may be delayed if the "situation does not improve."

Mobile testing site in Saint-Michel

A mobile testing site in Montreal's Saint-Michel neighbourhood opened today for residents who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

From noon to 8 p.m. today and Monday, a clinic will be open at Joseph-François-Perrault high school. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the testing site will be at the Centre de loisirs René-Goupil.

Testing is available to Saint-Michel residents showing symptoms, regardless of immigration status or whether they are eligible for provincial health coverage.

"We're doing four days of testing in two different areas in Saint-Michel to be closer to the population and try to get more people to come and get tested who may have symptoms," said Julie Provencher, director of youth and public health services at CIUSSS de l'est de l'ile de Montreal, the local public health board.

The Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension borough says trucks equipped with loudspeakers will be broadcasting public health recommendations in multiple languages. A pamphlet that includes a reminder about the city's 211 help line is also being distributed.

The neighbourhood has one of the highest concentrations of infections in Montreal, along with Montéal-Nord, which opened a testing site last week.

Provencher said the health board is getting some residents to answer a questionnaire in order to better understand the nature of the outbreak in the borough. She said one hypothesis is that the many different languages spoken in the area means some people aren't fully aware of the the specific measures being taken.

"I don't think the virus decides who it's going to attack, so I don't think it has anything to do with the culture," she said.

But socio-economic conditions could come into play, she said: "It is more difficult for people who live in a small apartment to be able to respect — even if they wanted to — what is asked of them" abound physical distancing.

There are also a lot of health-care workers who live in the area, Provencher said.

Rivière-des-Prairies, which has also seen a spike in the number of cases, is expected to get a testing site in the coming days as well.

The province is ramping up its testing capacity starting tomorrow, with the goal of conducting about 14,000 tests daily.

Just over 9,000 tests were conducted on Saturday. 

Provincial health authorities announced Sunday that another 69 people had died of COVID-19, bringing the total death in Quebec to 2,205.

Businesses prepare to reopen

With thousands in Montreal still infected, the city is putting new parking restrictions in place as it hopes to curb the amount of people gathering in its large parks.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is asking residents to only visit their local park when they leave their homes to get some fresh air.

A Montreal police officer checks the identification of a man in a park in Montreal on Saturday. The city has limited parking near several large parks to encourage people to stay within the neighborhoods when they go outside. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Parking has been removed on streets bordering La Fontaine Park, Maisonneuve Park, Jarry Park, Fréderic-Back Park and the Île-de-la-Visitation Nature Park.

Outside the greater Montreal area, however, preparations are underway to reopen some parts of the economy. On Monday, retail stores that have their own entrance will be able to open for the first time since March 25.

Elizabeth Voyer, who co-owns Fleuriste St-Jovite in Mont-Tremblant, said being able to make sales the week before Mother's Day was an unexpected surprise. The week is "one of the biggest days of the year" for flower shops, she said.

While she is thankful she'll be able to do business this week, Voyer said the government's plan gave business owners "little time to get ready." She said she had a lot to sort out in order to re-organize the layout of her store to limit contact between staff and customers.

"It's always a little bit scary because we've been told to stay in for seven or eight weeks, and then it's lifted all of a sudden," said Voyer.

With files from Jaela Bernstien and Radio-Canada

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