City of Montreal reports majority of long-term care homes have COVID-19 outbreaks

WATCH: Montreal officials provide an update on COVID-19

Montreal remains the epicentre of Quebec’s coronavirus outbreak, with 7,281 of the province’s 15, 857 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As of Thursday, there were  332 deaths linked to the illness, compared to 630 province wide.

Regional public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin said that while some numbers may seem to indicate a spike, Montreal is plateauing.

The situation in long-term care facilities, however, remains critical.

“Seventy-five per cent of our CHSLDs are in an outbreak,” Drouin said.

Earlier in the week, Quebec premier François Legualt announced caregivers, who are often family members, would be allowed into CHSLDs.

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Drouin, however, said the situation in Montreal requires a different approach and would take some time.

“We are in a specific situation,” she said. “We cannot do this in the same way as in other regions where there are no or low levels of cases.”

Drouin first clarified who qualifies as a caregiver.

“When we’re talking about a caregiver, it is really a person that is known by the CHSLD to give care regularly to residents,” she said.

“And if we integrate this person at the CHSLD, we’re going to have to have good preparation, training, use of protective equipment and of course consent, because it is not zero-risk.”

Caregivers will not be allowed in CHSLDs with active outbreaks or hot zones. Caregivers will eventually be allowed in residences without outbreaks, or residences with segregated hot and cold zones within the building.

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The priority, however, is to address the current staffing shortage in many facilities.

“Right, now, the priority is to integrate new health-care workers that are coming from hospitals and also need to be prepared,” Drouin said.

As for caregivers, it will be up to each CHSLD to contact families and make the appropriate recommendations based on their situation.

Seniors living at home have not been forgotten either, according to Drouin.

In a pilot project launched last week, the city of Montreal, in collaboration with the department of public health, reached out to 5,000 Montrealers over the age of 70 to assess their specific needs.

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The aim is to contact every senior on the island via an automated phone call.

Drouin explained respondents will be asked if they have any specific needs such as medications, food or help with grocery deliveries.

“We ask you to call 211 if you have specific needs,” Drouin said, adding they will then be referred to community organizations that can help.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the project will help the city target its approaches with the elderly community.

Plante told seniors not to worry if they receive a phone call from the city and public health, explaining it wasn’t a phishing scam.

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The mayor also announced measures to keep taxi drivers safer as they provide essential services throughout the pandemic.

The City will be giving Montreal’s Taxi Bureau $270,000 to help retrofit taxi cabs with a Plexiglas division between drivers and riders.

“We’re also going to add sanitary products for drivers and clients,” Plante said.

The taxi bureau also came up with the idea of installing a dry vapor device to disinfect cabs.

Plante said she was pleased with the initiatives which will allow for safer essential travel in Montreal.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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