Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante teases summer COVID-19 plan but offers few details
MONTREAL -- With the weather getting nicer in Montreal, Mayor Valerie Plante on Tuesday teased a summer plan that will allow Montrealers to enjoy their city while staying safe but declined to give concrete details.
Plante said the plan would include strategies for what would happen in the city's public spaces, such as parks, as well as guidelines for day camps and other activities for children and families.
Plante reiterated her call for Montrealers to maintain a distance of two metres between each other when outside their homes and said people looking to enjoy the weather in a park should head to one close to their homes.
"It's nice to have sun, it's good for your heart and soul and body, and it's tempting to take advantage of it," the mayor said.
Plante also called on Montrealers who find themselves in situations where physical distancing is difficult to wear a face covering, adding that those face coverings are a complementary measure and are not meant to replace others such as hand washing and maintaining physical distance.
Plante also announced the city had obtained 50,000 reusable face coverings which will be distributed among vulnerable populations by community groups.
She noted the upcoming summer will be highly unusual, with all major events and festivals already cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public health director Mylene Drouin said guidelines on day camps would be issued by the provincial government but said if they do reopen, they would include numerous preventive measures.
The summer plan will also likely include contingencies for a heatwave, given the unlikelihood that swimming pools and air-conditioned spaces will return to normal.
“We'll have to be creative on how we want to fight those heat waves and offer fresh places for people to cool down," said Plante.
Drouin also addressed the provincial government's recently released plan to reopen the city's schools on May 19, saying “I think we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Drouin said the city is working with school boards to figure out plans on how to move forward with school reopenings safely.
“I think schools also have challenges with density, with setting up prevention measures of everything having to do with cultures, language barriers, understanding the guidelines, food safety. There's a series of issues.”
According to the city's latest data, 1,039 people have died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, while there have been 12,487 confirmed cases.
Drouin said 80 per cent of Montreal's COVID-19 deaths have been residents of CHSLDs and senior care homes.
She said there may be some good news in the data, pointing to a stabilization in new hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units in the city, calling it a "positive indicator for us."
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM ON REOPENING ECONOMY
Plante sounded a cautiously optimistic tone while addressing the provincial government's plan to begin reopening the economy. That plan would see street-facing stores and construction resume operation in mid-May.
But she said Montreal has "specific characteristics we need to consider" such as a denser population than other parts of Quebec and more of a reliance on public transit.
She repeatedly said the situation is fluid and plans could be altered depending on what the data shows as the provincial government's target date approaches.
ESCALATING SITUATION IN MONTREAL-NORTH
Drouin also addressed the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Montreal-North, which now has the highest per-capita rates of infection in the city, with 1,153 cases as of Tuesday. Drouin said more than 40 per cent of those infections are associated with CHSLDs and seniors' residences, including health-care staff working in those facilities.
She said a strategy for dealing with the Montreal-North outbreak would be unveiled in the coming days but would likely include increased screening measures.
Drouin said that while priority has been given to testing health-care workers, long-term care facility residents and essential workers, that could soon change as the city's testing capability grows.
“We'll focus first on neighbourhoods that have higher rates but what we want in the next weeks is a strategy that will be in each neighbourhood, people will have access and capacity to get tested,” she said. “One of the conditions for a successful deconfinement is to be able to intervene rapidly where there are outbreaks. If we want to see where there are outbreaks, we need to have tests.”
Drouin attributed the exploding numbers to several factors, including the dense population of the area but also the relatively large number of residents who work in the health-care and food sectors.