Montreal's 3rd wave is on the wane, but Drouin says measures should remain

Montreal public health director Dr. Mylene Drouin says she's proud of how the city has fared in the third wave, maintaining a stability in cases and a fraction of the number of hospitalizations than in the second. 

City seeing low transmission rates, despite variants of concern making up majority of cases

Montreal's director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, says the city's measures are working in the third wave. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin says the city seems to be weathering the third wave of COVID-19 well, with case numbers remaining stable and hospitalizations about a quarter what they were in the second wave. 

Still, Drouin urged caution, saying things could change quickly as has been seen elsewhere in the province or in neighbouring Ontario with superspreader events. 

Drouin said the city has seen fewer than 2,000 new cases in the last 14 days and has a positivity rate that is stable at about three per cent, despite the highly transmissibile variant of concern B117 making up 65 per cent of new cases. 

She said it shows Montrealers have been diligent about following public health measures and that those measures are effective in suppressing the virus's spread. 

There have been 125 cases of other variants of concern, but Drouin said they are not being transmitted in the community. 

"Montreal is progressing in the right directions and all our indicators are stable or even decreasing," Drouin said at a news conference held by Montreal public health officials Wednesday afternoon. 

"It is quite good news for us, knowing that we were the epicentre of the first wave and of course knowing that in a big city like Montreal, with community transmission, it is often difficult to control."

Drouin said there are many outbreaks across the city, but they remain small and quickly controlled. The city hasn't recorded any superspreader events, she said. 

As well, 75 per cent of Montrealers aged 60 years and older have now been vaccinated and that average is true for 95 per cent of the city's boroughs — a sign public health teams' efforts to reduce health inequities often due to socioeconomic status have been successful. 

'The virus will eventually hit a wall'

Sonia Bélanger, who heads the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal and oversees the COVID-19 response of Montreal's different health boards, said the city has also seen a serious drop in hospitalizations since the winter. 

At the peak of the second wave, she said there were more than 900 people hospitalized with the virus in the city. Now, there are 219 people in hospital and 67 patients in intensive care.

Drouin said she believes there are a number of factors that account for the city's stable third wave situation. 

They include variant cases being identified rapidly, public health measures that have reduced people's contacts and the acceleration of the vaccination campaign. 

"The virus will eventually hit a wall and with spring arriving, people will be heading outdoors more, leading to even less transmission," she said. 

Drouin said she would like to maintain public health measures in place for the next weeks and months until the city has reached a high enough immunity rate with more people vaccinated.