The majority of new COVID-19 cases in Montreal are now linked to the highly contagious delta variant, and Montreal’s public health director says that’s leading to the virus spreading faster and more aggressively than last fall.
In her first COVID-19 update since June, Dr. Mylène Drouin said on Wednesday that Montreal the fourth wave is projected to increase cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
“It’s like a film playing all over again,” Drouin said.
She reported an average of 170 new cases per day, which she said resembles figures from late September last year.
“We still haven’t seen the effect of children returning to school, so we expect a larger number of cases in the next couple weeks,” Drouin said, noting only 53 per cent of eligible elementary and high school students in the city are fully vaccinated.
The rise in cases also comes with fewer restrictions on gatherings and other activities than last fall.
Montreal public health will be conducting a vaccine blitz in all of the city’s schools once classes have started. Both eligible students and staff, including teachers, will be able to get a shot.
New cases are most prevalent among 18- to 24-year-olds, whose vaccination rate remains the lowest among eligible age groups. But there is also a rise in cases among five- to 11-year-olds, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, Drouin noted.
She urged Montrealers to adopt the same kinds of safety measures that were required before the vaccination campaign — including wearing masks indoors and for close contacts, physical distancing and hand washing.
“We know delta is more contagious and more at risk of causing severe forms of the illness, compared to the alpha variant,” Drouin said.
“Vaccine protection is good, but it’s not perfect. We’re asking people to get vaccinated because of the gain at the individual level, but also at the collective level.”
Relaxing measures would ‘put oil on the fire’
Montreal public health is expected to release detailed information on cases and vaccination rate by borough in the coming weeks. Drouin said four neighbourhoods currently have a positivity rate above five per cent. They are Saint-Michel, Parc-Extension, Rivière-des-Prairies and Bordeaux-Cartierville.
There are 46 outbreaks happening in the city, Drouin said, adding she wanted to highlight that 11 of them were as a result of dance events, both indoor and outdoor.
She said spectators and dancers had been affected and asks that people attending those kinds of events take extra precautions, including wearing a mask at all times, avoiding switching dance partners and getting tested if symptoms arise.
Drouin called on Montrealers to avoid close contacts in general, saying it’s not the time for people to let their guard down, adding that relaxing measures would “put oil on the fire.”
She said the hospitalization and intensive-care unit admissions remain stable for now, with 16 new hospitalizations and four ICU admissions in the past week in the city. But she said those are also projected to rise in the coming weeks.
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