Fearing spike in COVID-19 cases after riots, experts urge Habs fans to celebrate safely
MONTREAL -- Habs fans caused quite the ruckus following the team’s series-winning Game 6 Thursday. The morning after, some voiced their concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19 through the crowd.
“Obviously, I was also happy with the results of (Thursday’s) game,” said Dr Jesse Papenburg, an infectious disease specialist at the MUHC. “But I have to say I'm a little bit concerned with these types of mass gatherings.”
Montreal reported just 30 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a continuation of a downward trend of infections in the city.
Still, the virus remains active -- especially among those aged 10-40, most of whom have not yet been fully vaccinated. Experts worry continued celebrations could cause infections to spike.
“The first dose of vaccine does (provide protection), but especially against variants we know second dose is really important,” said Papenburg.
Only 24 per cent of eligible Quebecers have been fully vaccinated, and just 6 per cent of those under 29.
“So, there is an opportunity within that age group in particular for transmission if anyone in that group was infected.”
Moreover, video of the post-game party shows people disregarding distancing guidelines. A significant portion of the crowd was also seen not wearing masks.
Even outdoors, Papenburg says that sort of partying “does a lot for viral transmission.”
“We have seen outbreaks in outdoor settings in Montreal during the third wave,” he said.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante spoke in favour of careful celebration as fans prepare for the playoff finals.
She said she’s “excited” by the idea of increasing capacity inside the Bell Centre, but her administration is working with the team to find other ways to watch.
“I'd be excited to have more (people) in the Bell Centre, but I'm also interested in having Montrealers watch the game outside,” said the mayor on Friday, offering the option for several outdoor viewing locations, for example.
Even after Montreal enters the green zone on Monday, public health has maintained its limit on indoor seating to 3,500 people in Quebec’s indoor stadiums.
Montreal public health told CTV News in a statement that it is not opposed to people celebrating during upcoming games, if they do it safely.
“The desire to come together and encourage our team is legitimate,” read the statement. “However, despite the decrease in the number of cases, the virus is still circulating, in particular the Delta variant, which is much more contagious.”
“Until we reach the targeted vaccination coverage (2 doses), large gatherings and events conducive to super-transmission must be avoided,” it continued.
“We encourage the population to support the Montreal Canadians in small groups, in outdoor places, and to keep their distance.”