MONTREAL -- Montreal remains the "epicentre" of COVID-19 in Quebec, and its hospitals are "at full capacity," the city's public health department said Friday.

While it sees some encouraging signs on the ground, there are still concerns on its radar, including many active outbreaks in the health network and an increase in cases in long-term care facilities.

Montreal's public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin, gave an update on the situation in the city on Friday morning, accompanied by Sonia Bélanger, head of the Montreal Centre-Sud regional health board.

There are currently more than 400 active outbreaks in Montreal, Drouin noted, including more than 140 in the health network.

"It is still worrisome," she said.

As for hospitals, "they are currently at full capacity," said Bélanger.

As of Friday, there are 696 hospitalized patients, 112 of whom are in intensive care, in Montreal.

In addition to the high hospital occupancy rate, there is also a shortage of staff, Bélanger continued: more than 1,000 workers are off the job, either because they have been infected with COVID-19, because they are waiting for their test results or because they are on preventive leave.

That affects the ability to provide care, Bélanger said.

There are also currently 121 outbreaks at various seniors' residences, including the public CHSLDs, an increase from the previous week.


The number of homeless people infected with COVID-19 is also on the rise.

There's a "fairly widespread" outbreak in several settings, said Drouin, with 192 cases reported since December, in addition to 82 community workers dedicated to serving that population.

Their situation is particularly difficult and adds a level of complexity to efforts by public health, as homeless people visit different places during the day: a night shelter, a day shelter and sometimes drop-in centres.

Since an overnight curfew was imposed across the province, homeless people have been worried they'll be ticketed if they're stopped outdoors between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. There have been calls to exempt them from the curfew, especially because there are not enough shelter spaces to accommodate them all.

Public health pointed out that additional shelter spaces have recently opened up: 112 at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau in the east end of the city, and another space in a soccer stadium in St-Michel.

Vaccinations for homeless Montrealers have also begun; some 500 of them have received their first dose, said Drouin. More than 1,150 doses have been reserved for them. 

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.