Outremont grappling with highest COVID-19 infection rate in Montreal

Outremont currently has 183 infections per 100,000 residents. That’s considerably higher than the next highest rate of infections, Plateau-Mont-Royal, which has 71 per 100,000.

Public health concerned about rising number of cases in Montreal borough

Outremont resident Alberto Delburgo makes his way to a gathering hosted by COVID-19 Help Hub, a group that is helping Montrealers cope with the pandemic. (CBC)

Alberto Delburgo has health problems and knows he has to be extra careful to avoid COVID-19, but the Outremont resident said isolating himself hasn't been easy.

"I used to go to my favourite café, have discussions with smart people," Delburgo said. "The last time I was there, we were three — everyone at a different table. It's horrible."

People are social creatures, he said, and "you have to be with other men and women."

As the virus spreads through communities across the province, Outremont has emerged as a hotspot. The borough has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in Montreal.

"It is still too early to know the reasons for this increase," said Carl Thériault, spokesperson for the
CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.

Outremont rose to 183 infections per 100,000 residents between Sept. 15 and 21. That's considerably higher than the next highest rate of infections, Plateau-Mont-Royal, which has 71 per 100,000.

While the borough was not a hotspot during the virus's first wave, an Outremont man who was part of the Hasidic community was the city's first recorded death related to COVID-19.

Overall, Montreal has about 44 cases per 100,000 residents.

While the health authority investigates, Thériault said people should respect health restrictions and get tested if they experience symptoms.

The founder of a local community group that has been helping Montrealers cope with the pandemic said everybody expected cases to rise again this fall.

"I'm not surprised, but I am surprised by the spike for Outremont, in comparison to all the other boroughs," said Astrid Arumae.

Her group of volunteers, COVID-19 Help Hub, hosted a gathering in the borough's St. Viateur Park on Thursday to help people like Delburgo break the isolation.

But gatherings have to stay small, Arumae said.

WATCH | Group of volunteers helps Outremont residents feel less isolated:

Volunteers help isolated Outremont residents

2 years ago
Duration 1:45
As Montreal's Outremont borough grapples with the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the city, a group of volunteers is trying to help residents feel less isolated while still being safe.

"We're just going to follow what the alerts are saying," said Arumae.

Gatherings in public settings such as parks are limited to 25 people at the orange level of Quebec's COVID-19 alert system. While six people may gather in private homes, the province's Health Minister is urging Quebecers to cancel all plans to have over friends and family for the next few weeks to get the spread of the virus under control.

The support from community groups offers residents like Delburgo some relief as the threat of more closures looms.

"I'm not gonna give up," he said. "Keep fighting. It will finish one of these days."

Mayer Feig, who runs a paramedic service in the neighbourhood, said he has heard of several cases of COVID-19 in the Hasidic community. He said they have been responding to COVID-19 calls, and some of those patients have since been hospitalized.

"Some people are mixing it up with the common cold," said Feig, who was tested himself earlier this week after he developed a cough.

"We are in constant contact with public health," he said, noting community members are trying to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines as best they can.

Feig said while police come check up on Hasidic businesses often to ensure people are complying with those guidelines, he has not heard of any tickets being handed out because of an infraction. 

With files from Matt D'Amours and Jennifer Yoon

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