MONTREAL -- Quebec seniors homes and long-term care facilities are emerging as a critical zone in the fight against COVID-19, with more than 400 facilities reporting cases, public health officials said Tuesday.

In Montreal, authorities confirmed two deaths from COVID-19 and another 12 confirmed cases at a long-term care facility in the borough of LaSalle. Just to the north in the suburb of Laval, health officials reported 24 cases between two residences, including four deaths.

The situation has been trying on families of those residing at the long-term care homes, known in Quebec as CHSLDs.

Peter Wheeland, a Montreal writer whose father was recently moved to the LaSalle facility, hasn't seen him since his transfer two weeks ago.

The transfer took place while the building was in lockdown and technicians were unable to install a phone in his room, Wheeland said. He's trying to get his father a cellphone so he can talk to him.

He said communication with family members has been poor.

"It's ridiculous that we find out that there's anywhere between 10 and 20 cases of COVID-19 at the CHSLD by reading about it (in the media)....That's insane," he said.

The CHSLD de LaSalle, where the deaths occurred, is home to about 200 people. Health officials said all affected residents have been moved to a single floor to prevent further spread of the virus.

Staff members who were in close contact with infected residents have been placed in isolation and are awaiting test results.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said health-care facilities are following a practice of isolating patients on floors and creating so-called "hot zones" for those being tested or with symptoms and "cold zones" for others.

"That is the best way to protect: to separate those two groups of people," she said.

The news of more deaths Tuesday came as Quebec public health director Horacio Arruda released figures showing 410 seniors facilities in the province have reported cases of COVID-19.

Arruda released the figures, which shed new light on Quebec's decision Sunday to provide $133 million in emergency aid for the institutions that house elderly people.

Those numbers include 184 long-term care centres like the one in LaSalle, 114 seniors residences, and 112 other facilities where seniors live.

Of the 31 deaths in the province, almost all have been people 70 and older with underlying health issues.

The province's seniors' homes and long-term care facilities have been under a strict lockdown since March 21, with access restricted to employees and residents confined to their rooms. But despite this, the novel coronavirus has found its way in.

The first person to die from the disease in the province lived in a seniors' residence in Lavaltrie, northeast of Montreal, and come into contact with people who had travelled, were symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19.

That facility, Residence Eva, had 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday and six of the province's 31 deaths, regional health officials confirmed. That represents two additional deaths since the previous report.

In a news release issued on Tuesday, the Lanaudière regional health board (CISSS) explained that the first case was confirmed on Mar. 16 and that it was a person who had not travelled, but had been in contact with people who had travelled, who were symptomatic and who tested positive for COVID-19.

Compulsory isolation was ordered in the residence on Mar. 21, meaning the period when new cases could appear won't be over before Apr. 4. The CISSS quickly ensured there was a contingent of health professionals, nurses and others on site day and night. Security guards are also on site, as well as a provincial police patroller who can step in if necessary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 31, 2020.