MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault sounded a cautiously optimistic note about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in his province on Friday, pointing to the latest numbers on deaths and new infections.

Over the past 24 hours, 50 Quebecers died of the virus, the lowest daily death toll since mid-April. That brings the total death toll in Quebec since the beginning of the crisis to 3,401.

“It's important to see the trend. We can't just look at the numbers for one day. We can see there is good news,” said Legault. “The number of deaths, we can't base ourselves on one day's numbers, but it's been a while since we've seen such a low number.”

In all, there have been 41,420 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province, with 696 of those coming in the past day.

“It's important to remember at least 11,000 have tested negative and who are cured,” said Legault.

Hospitalizations decreased by 13 to 1,822 while the number of Quebecers in intensive care units rose by one to 191.

The premier repeated his call for Quebecers, especially those in Montreal, to wear masks while using public transportation or otherwise in areas where they are in close physical proximity to others. He announced the provincial government will be giving 1 million masks to the city to distribute as well as $6 million to public transportation corporations in the Greater Montreal Area to distribute masks.

Legault said while mandatory mask-wearing on public transit was still an option, he was not yet at the point of invoking it.

“I'm not excluding that," he said. "I would much prefer people respect the guidelines. Yes, it will take a certain number of days before masks get to the door of every metro or bus. We want to know whether people will wear them or not. It's useless to make something mandatory if it's already become practice.”


With Quebec's health-care network still missing thousands of workers, Legault said he couldn't rule out cancelling vacations during the summer. He said that's an option he hopes to avoid, saying thousands of employees are due to return from quarantine in the coming weeks. 

“We are hoping and we believe we'll be able to give minimum vacation time," said Health Minister Danielle McCann. "The unions are aware right now of the plan we are drafting. The objective is quite clear, to give vacation time as much as possible.”


This is a developing story and will be updated.