Public health officials in Laval, Montreal worry about emerging 4th wave

After a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past week, the City of Laval would likely be going back to a red zone — if the province was still using its colour-coded alert system.

Unvaccinated adults and children pose a risk when students return to class

Quebec does not plan to make masks mandatory for students seated in class, but public health officials in Montreal and Laval say that decision may need to be revised as cases rise. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

After a spike in COVID-19 cases, the city of Laval would likely be turning into a red zone again — if the province was still using its colour-coded alert system.

The director of public health for Laval, Dr. Jean-Pierre Trépanier, says the average of 50 cases a day he's seen this week would be enough to push the region into the "maximum alert" level that came with bans on private gatherings and an 8 p.m. curfew.

"It's probably the beginning of the fourth wave that we're seeing now," said Trépanier. "We're seeing a big increase in the number of cases."

He says everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine must do so as soon as possible.

Share of delta cases rising

Unlike much of the country, the delta variant does not yet account for the majority of new cases in Quebec, said Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist at Quebec's Institut national de santé publique.

But, he cautions, "this is changing rapidly" and delta will likely become the dominant strain of the virus later this month.

He says about a third of new cases are coming from people in their 20s, who have been vaccinated at a lower rate than other eligible age groups. 

"These are individuals who are meeting with lots of people," he said, and it's having a "ripple effect" on others.

While delta is not believed to be more lethal, it does spread more quickly. And with the rise in cases coming at a time when the risk of contagion is lower — with more gatherings held outdoors, children at home from school and the warmer weather slowing the spread of the virus — De Serres says this points to a "worrisome" scenario come September.

Don't rule out masks in class: Montreal Public Health

In Montreal, things aren't moving in the right direction either, Dr. David Kaiser, a lead official at Montreal Public Health, said at a news conference Thursday.

He said both cases and hospitalizations are climbing.

Kaiser urged those who haven't been vaccinated to get their shot, particularly young people. He also said people should continue to follow public health guidelines and wear a mask where recommended.

"When we're getting closer to school and we see where we're at in terms of the situation in Montreal, then mask-wearing in the school setting will have to be on the table," he said.

Montreal Public Health's Dr. David Kaiser speaks to reporters at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. He's urging Montrealers to get vaccinated and follow public health guidelines. (Alex Leduc/CBC)

The province's current back-to-school plan allows students to remove their masks when seated in class.

In Laval, Trépanier says reaching the province's goal of 75 per cent of people being fully vaccinated is not enough to stop the delta variant — especially given that children under 12 won't be vaccinated before they return to class. No vaccine is approved yet for that age group.

As Laval Public Health continues to meet with its counterparts in Montreal and the provincial Health Ministry, Trépanier said they will be discussing the potential need for some restrictions to return, in particular in classrooms.

With files from Lauren McCallum and Alex Leduc


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