As city enters red zone, Montreal calls on youth to respect regulations

Montreal's public health director is urging young people to pay better attention to public health guidelines, and the mayor says there will be an increase in police patrols in parks as the city's moves into high alert.

City to ramp up police presence in parks to crack down on social gatherings

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says police will have an increased presence in the city's parks over the coming weeks. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin is urging young people to pay better attention to public health guidelines, as cases linked to private gatherings, such as parties, continue to be the biggest cause of community transmission.

The city is launching a social media campaign targeting people 18-34, calling on youth to get tested and to pick up the phone when contact tracers call. 

"What we see is that we have a high positivity rate in this group, but a low proportion of tests at this time, so that means that we do not capture all the cases and that we are missing cases where we can make an intervention," Drouin said at a news conference Tuesday, a day after the province moved Montreal into the red zone, the highest alert level.

Drouin said of all the people contacted for contact tracing, only about half usually follow up quickly. 

According to Drouin, more than half of cases in Montreal can be traced back to social gatherings or transmission among families. 

Increased police presence

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said police will have an increased presence in the city's parks to ensure people stop gathering in the coming weeks. Tickets will be handed out if people don't comply, she said.

Plante said she was especially disappointed to see people participating in Tam Tam's, a large gathering on Mount-Royal held every Sunday.

"What we saw in the news at Tam Tam's is not acceptable — not acceptable. It's not because you are outside that it's okay to not keep your distance and not wear a mask," said Plante. 

"That is not how we will go through this second wave." 

A police cruiser is shown as people gather in a Montreal park. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The city is also dealing with 30 outbreaks in workplaces and 30 in Montreal schools, as well as six outbreaks in daycares, nine in healthcare facilities and five in the community — including parties and sports teams, Drouin said.

For the most part, those are small and "well-controlled at this time," she said. 

Drouin said some of those outbreaks have been linked to workplace break rooms and while employees carpool together.

She called on employees to be more vigilant in wearing a mask and in keeping two metres away from each other. 

Outbreaks in sports teams have also been on the rise in recent weeks, she said. She said provincial health authorities are currently working together to come up with a solution to that. 

"We're seeing in post-secondary, CEGEP, university and also civil sports, we're seeing outbreaks more and more and it is a context where you have contact," said Drouin. 

"I think the government is currently working on it to see how they will put some new regulations on it to make sure those are not linked to an increase in transmission." 

Hospitals could soon lack resources

Sonia Bélanger, president of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, said that while hospitals have not yet seen the same numbers as they did last spring, they are already starting to feel the pressure. 

Currently, there are 61 people being treated across 20 different hospitals for issues related to COVID-19 in Montreal, including 17 in intensive care. 

Bélanger said if hospitalization rates increase, hospitals may again begin to face a backlog of surgeries and other treatments. She said the city is still dealing with a shortage of staff and a lack of resources.

"The capacity hasn't been reached yet but that doesn't mean that what we saw in the first wave won't happen again," she said. 

For COVID-19 patients, there are currently 1,000 beds set aside in the city out of the 5,000 beds in Montreal hospitals. 150 of those are set aside for intensive care patients. 

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