Obey social distancing orders, pleads family of Quebec's first COVID-19 victim

"We didn't have the chance to save Grand-mamie. But you have the chance to make a difference now that we know — now that we know the damage caused by this pandemic," said Mariette Tremblay's family.

Premier Legault urges Quebecers to reduce travel within Quebec as COVID-19 cases climb to 121

Mariette Tremblay, 82, was Quebec's first patient to die of COVID-19. (Bibianne Lavallée/Facebook)
  • There are now 121 confirmed cases in Quebec. One person has died, and one person has officially recovered.
  • Of those confirmed cases, 28 are in Montreal. Two of those 28 are being treated in intensive care.
  • A staff member at Montreal's Sainte-Justine hospital has tested positive and everyone who came into contact with that person have been informed and are in isolation.
  • Premier François Legault is calling on Quebecers to reduce travel within the province.
  • Call 1-877-644-4545 if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, instead of 811.
  • A confirmed case of COVID-19 was at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Library on Botrel Street on March 11.
  • Concordia University is giving students four days to vacate residences, citing COVID-19 concerns.
  • Unions representing construction workers are urging the government to shut down construction sites, citing unsanitary working conditions.
  • Quebec Premier François Legault is staying far away from his deputy premier, Geneviève Guilbault, so she can take over should the premier become infected.

Mariette Tremblay had four children, nine grandchildren and another nine great-grandchildren. She was the pillar of her large family and well-known in the small town northeast of Montreal where she lived in a seniors' home. 

But Tremblay, 82, died in an isolation unit at the Jewish General Hospital earlier this week, separated from all those who loved her most. Her death is Quebec's first COVID-19 fatality.

"We wanted to be able to hold her hand, to comfort her, to speak softly into her ear, but we didn't have the chance," her family wrote Thursday in a Facebook post.

When Tremblay's death was announced Wednesday, public officials said she had caught the disease from someone who had travelled abroad. 

In their Facebook post, Tremblay's family recalled a simpler time — before Quebec, like the rest of the world, fell into the "infernal whirlwind" of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"That time when children were still going to school, when airplanes were flying in the sky, when we did the groceries without a pit in our stomach. Imagine, there were still people who left to go on vacations," the post reads.

"It seems so far away, but it was less than a week ago."

The family said Mariette Tremblay caught the virus during that more innocent time, when the provincial government had yet to issue its guidelines on social distancing, which include isolation for travellers returning home and no visits to long-term care centres. 

'It's not the time to go shopping or spend an hour in a restaurant,' Quebec Premier François Legault told seniors at his news conference on Thursday. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Premier François Legault announced yet more directives Thursday: Quebecers should not be travelling around the province, nor should they be having dinner parties, Legault said at his daily news conference. 

For the Tremblays, Mariette's death is proof of how seriously the government's COVID-19 guidelines need to be taken. 

"We didn't have the chance to save Grand-mamieBut you have the chance to make a difference now that we know — now that we know the damage caused by this pandemic," they said. 

Legault urges seniors to stay home

It's been one week since the Quebec government began applying ever more drastic social-distancing measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Authorities are warning such measures could be in place for months to come.

Earlier this week, Legault was appealing directly to young people to avoid hanging out in large groups,.But his message on Thursday was addressed to older generations.

"Certain directives aren't being followed by everyone," Legault said.

"Let's begin with people 70 years and over. It's not the right time to be in shopping malls. It's not the right time to be spending an hour at a restaurant with your friends."

But his affable public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, had plenty of suggestions to prevent isolation from spilling over into boredom. 

Dr. Arruda's tips on keeping busy

3 years ago
Duration 0:30
The front man of Quebec public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, shares advice on how to stay occupied while in quarantine.

"Try doing what you never have time to do," Arruda said, later adding: "It could be yoga. It could be music. It could be dancing; it could be dancing online with someone else over FaceTime."

Arruda, the son of Portuguese immigrants, said he plans to spend his weekend trying out new recipes for Portuguese tarts. 

"Don't stay at home doing nothing," he warned. "You'll get depressed."

COVID-19 cases continue to climb

Provincial health officials announced earlier Thursday that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec is now 121. Of those 121 cases, seven patients are in hospital and one person has recovered.

Currently there are 28 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Montreal, two of whom are in intensive care, said Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of Montreal public health

A shopper looks at empty cleaning supply shelves at a store in Laval on Thursday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

She said new cases are arising in people who have not travelled, but so far public health has been able to find the source of each infection, meaning there is no confirmation of sustained community transmission.

Drouin said Montreal public health is increasing its investigation capacity as it is expected that there will be a substantial increase in confirmed cases in the coming weeks.

She said her team met with some 50,000 travellers at the Montreal airport this week. But with the reduction of flights and borders closing, that team will now focus on investigating COVID-19 cases.

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