MONTREAL -- The Island of Montreal reached a grim new benchmark of the COVID-19 second wave Wednesday as the city reported over 200 hospitalizations due to the disease for the first time since the beginning of September.

There are 207 people receiving treatment in the hospital for the novel coronavirus including 29 in the intensive care ward.

Hospitalizations have consistently risen since September.

"If we want to have a holiday period, we will have to be very careful," said Sonia Belanger, health and social services director for the Centre-Sud region of Montreal. "What we are observing currently in the hospital and the clinics is there is an increase and that scares us."

Belanger said the island has 1,000 beds reserved for COVID-19 patients, and at the height of the crisis in the spring, 837 were being used by patients suffering from COVID-19 with an average of 500 to 600 in use at the time throughout the first wave.

Montreal also reported its 3,600th death due to COVID-19 Wednesday, as the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus creeps close to 50,000 with authorities reporting 49,248 confirmed positive cases since the start of the pandemic.

Montreal's public health director Mylene Drouin, however, said Wednesday's 219 new confirmed cases are below the seven-day average of around 270.

Drouin said although health-care professionals are monitoring 254 active outbreaks, the good news is that they are often small with fewer than five or 10 active cases.

She said there are more than 109 outbreaks in workplaces with just two involving over 10 people. In addition, there are active cases in 74 Montreal-area schools, and 21 in daycare centres, 40 outbreaks in the health-care system, and 25 in public and private seniors' residences, but none are large outbreaks.

Belanger added that 200 health-care workers are off work due to COVID-19 positive tests.


Drouin advised celebrating a maximum of two holiday celebrations to avoid spreading COVID-19 among family members. 

She also reminded citizens that winter garments such as scarves and neck warmers are not appropriate replacements for face masks.

"Having a scarf is not the same as wearing a mask," said Drouin, adding that entering public transit or indoor public space such as stores still requires wearing a mask.

"It is not recommended to eat in public transportation," she added.

Drouin said it is not recommended to get a test before the holiday season unless displaying symptoms, as it may give people a false sense of security and overtax testing capacities.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante acknowledged that with less daylight and cooler temperatures, it is important to keep an eye on both your physical and mental health.

"We have to keep hope. Yes, the situation is fragile when it comes to hospitalizations," she said. "Se have to continue to do all that we can with this desire of celebrating Christmas or having a nice winter break with our families by following the health rules."

Plante said the city will announce outdoor public spaces such as hockey rinks, active streets and other decorated holiday areas.

Plante added that the city and community organizations are continuing to work to find places for the city's homeless population to say rather than the tents many have occupied since the spring.

Six people, Plante said, from the tent city on Notre-Dame St. decided to accept accommodation in the YMCA in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Homeless man Jacques Brochu in Montreal tent city


Belanger said 18,000 available spaces for the holiday influenza vaccinations.

She added vulnerable people should book a vaccination appointment as soon as possible.