Montreal

Montreal public health authority promotes website to help track spread of COVID-19

The island of Montreal remains the Quebec epicentre of the pandemic, with 2,837 confirmed infections and 29 deaths. Dr. Mylène Drouin, the public health director for the region, has invited Montrealers to participate in a University of Toronto-based initiative, flatten.ca, to help gather data on the spread of the virus.

As of Friday, Montreal has 2,837 confirmed infections, including 169 in hospital; 29 people have died

A patient is brought to the emergency unit at Notre Dame Hospital on Friday. Most of Montreal's COVID-19 patients who have died are aged 80 and over, health authoritieis say. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Montreal's public health authority is asking citizens to participate in a web-based data-gathering project called flatten.ca, or aplatir.ca, designed to track COVID-19 cases to better understand how it is spreading in the city.

Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of Montreal's public health agency, announced Friday that to date, 29 Montrealers have died of the infection, and 175 health-care workers have contracted the disease.

There are 2,837 confirmed cases in Montreal, representing 137.3 infections per 100,000 people, according to the most recent figures available.

Of those infected, 169 are currently in hospital, said Drouin.

The City of Montreal translated the website, which was developed by a team at University of Toronto. Participating in the data-gathering project is voluntary, Drouin said.

Still, she urged those who believe they have symptoms to log on and fill out the short questionnaire, because it will allow public health officials to better understand the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Users of the site are presented with eight questions, requiring yes-or-no responses, and must input the first three digits of their postal code. No other personal information is required.

Drouin said with enough data, the health agency will be better "able to map the distribution of symptoms around Montreal."

Be vigilant but tolerant, urges Drouin

Police keep an eye on social distancing on Friday on Montreal's Parc Avenue. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Montreal's public health authority has vowed to crack down on those who defy physical-distancing rules as COVID-19 now affects nearly every municipality on the island, and some citizens still refuse to stay two metres apart.

Drouin repeated Friday it is vital that people continue to respect public health guidelines to prevent transmission.

Some neighbourhoods are seeing a higher number of cases, and the public health authority is trying to understand why, she said.

In harder-hit districts, she said, the agency will be going into the community to build awareness and try to better understand why they are not getting out the message effectively.

She said some cultural communities do not seem to understand the importance of physical distancing and how serious the situation is when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

Montreal has already said its police service will be handing out fines to those who gather in parks while failing to respect physical-distancing directives.

"Of course, there's going to be more police in the parks to make sure those recommendations are applied," Drouin repeated Friday.

Drouin was asked how her department would respond to gatherings in the city's Hasidic community, after police were called to a synagogue on Bernard Avenue in Outremont Thursday evening.

A conservative Jewish leader said Friday it had all been a misunderstanding, that no gathering had taken place.

Without referring to any specific incident, Drouin asked Montrealers to be tolerant.

"We want to ask the population not to [denounce] your neighbours or vulnerable populations," said Drouin."We're here to make sure that big events are denounced, but not specific groups."

People gather at a Montreal day shelter for the homeless Friday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Since a local state of emergency was first declared one week ago, Montreal has been increasing its care for the homeless population, providing extra shelters, an isolation unit, outdoor day centres, washrooms to clean up in and extra food.

Public health authorities are also working with the owners and building managers of large multiplexes to ensure people who have tested positive for COVID-19  are staying indoors and that shared spaces are kept clean.

The number of infections is expected to climb in the coming days. For more information about Quebec's overall situation, check CBC's daily guide to the latest numbers.

Drouin said Friday testing is a priority now for "some groups where we know we can have clusters and outbreaks — so, health workers, outbreaks in CHSLDs or elder residences, and essential workers."

With files from Franca Mignacca

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