COVID-19 testing clinic opens in Montréal-Nord, the city's current hot spot
Borough will begin distributing masks on Saturday
Montreal's public health department opened a COVID-19 testing clinic Friday in Montréal-Nord, one of several steps taken to address the infection rate in the borough, which has risen to become the highest in the city.
The new testing clinic, located in the parking lot of the Rivière-des-Prairies Hospital and open seven days a week, is much needed, said Paule Robitaille, MNA for Bourassa-Sauvé, which includes Montréal-Nord.
But she said the location of the clinic, on the eastern edge of the borough, could be problematic for the large number of residents who don't own a car.
"I sincerely hope that we're going to have something here in the heart of Montreal North where people could go by foot," she said. "If it's here and it's accessible, it's going to be much easier. And they're going to be tested."
The latest public health data on Friday showed 1,316 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montréal-Nord, an infection rate of 1,562 per 100,000 people. The next-closest borough by that measure is Côte Saint-Luc, with 1,091 per 100,000.
Brunilda Reyes, the founder and director of Les fourchettes de l'espoir, a community organization devoted to food security for economically disadvantaged residents, said the high infection rate in Montréal-Nord is not a shock.
"There are characteristics of this neighbourhood that make an outbreak more likely," Reyes said. "We are the most dense neighbourhood in Canada. When you have issues of poverty and health, it's not a surprise to see a problem happen like this one."
Furthermore, she said, many of the borough's residents work in essential services and so are still moving around the city in order to work.
Les fourchettes de l'espoir has seen a large increase in the number of people it serves since the pandemic hit, leaving people already on shaky economic footing living with even greater uncertainty. The agency now serves around 400 families a week, Reyes said, and delivers food to their homes so people have to move around less.
Starting tomorrow, community organizations, elected officials and some stores and pharmacies will distribute 4,000 disposable masks that were ordered by the Montréal-Nord borough. The borough is awaiting an additional 6,000 reusable cloth masks that will be distributed later.
The borough will also establish wider pedestrian walkways, as has been done elsewhere on the island, to make physical distancing easier. The priority will be commercial streets close to residential areas and streets around schools in the borough's northeast.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the testing clinic will help the city get a handle on the situation.
"I am hopeful that by better understanding why there is more community transmission in Montreal-North, Saint-Michel and Rivière-des-Prairies, we will be able to act effectively," Plante said.
The Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles borough, just east of Montréal-Nord, is also among the hardest hit in Montreal.
Opposition councillors there issued a statement Friday calling on borough Mayor Caroline Bourgeois to take steps like those taken by Montréal-Nord to prevent the crisis from getting worse.
With files from Simon Nakonechny and Radio-Canada