Here's what you should know about COVID-19 as Quebec's construction holiday begins

·3 min read
People walk along a street in Montreal on Saturday, July 31, 2021. Quebec's construction holiday kicks off as the province grapples with the growing spread of COVID-19. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People walk along a street in Montreal on Saturday, July 31, 2021. Quebec's construction holiday kicks off as the province grapples with the growing spread of COVID-19. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)

COVID-19 is spreading in the province more than it has in recent months and the uptick in hospitalizations and cases comes at a time when many Quebecers appear to be less concerned about following public health guidelines.

That could mean trouble as people get ready to travel and gather during the two-week construction holiday.

"There seems to be a group of people that are maybe a bit more worried, more prudent, but otherwise, there's sort of trivialization and loss of motivation with the majority of the population," said Ève Dubé, a medical anthropologist with the province's public health research institute, known as the INSPQ.

The institute carries out regular surveys of about 6,600 Quebecers in order to track public perception of the pandemic.

Despite the shifting attitudes about COVID-19, the virus is still very much present.

The number of COVID-19 deaths reached 15,000 at the beginning of May and now stands at 15,849 — an average of about 10 per day during that period.

In the last week, the number of Quebecers in hospital with COVID-19 jumped from 1,887 to 2,110 before dropping to 2,088 in the most recent provincial update.

The seven-day average of cases confirmed through PCR tests is more than 1,900, even though access to those tests is very restricted.

With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe and protect others while still making the most of the construction holiday.

Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC
Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC

'Don't go make other people sick,' expert says

Travelling doesn't necessarily increase the chances of getting COVID-19. It depends on how you travel and what you do while you're away.

Driving to a secluded area away is obviously safer than getting on a plane and spending lots of time indoors around other people, said Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist in Montreal with a degree in epidemiology.

According to Labos, it's important for people to remember the virus hasn't gone away and continues to do damage.

He recommends that people stick to the basics in order to protect themselves and others: Make you sure you get at least three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — four if you're part of the high risk population — and even if it's no longer a rule, wear a mask around others.

"Let's not forget we had no flu in Canada for two years because people were walking around wearing a mask," Labos said.

"If wearing a mask can get rid of the flu, something that kills thousands of people every year, I think it's a good idea to keep doing that."

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Highly transmissible Omicron subvariants are behind many of the infections that sparked the province's seventh wave. Provincial experts have said that people's failure to isolate after testing positive with a rapid test or noticing symptoms is also part of the problem.

According to Labos, even if people want to enjoy themselves this summer, they have to stop "powering through" when they have flu-like symptoms.

"You may feel fine but don't go make other people sick," he said. "It's sort of like powering through a cold. There was a time when that was a show of strength. I hope we realize that it's not a good idea."

Provincial experts say they expect the latest increase in hospitalizations to reach a peak in the coming weeks.

As far as Labos is concerned, however, the pandemic is difficult to predict, and people's attitudes toward the threat of COVID-19 will play a large role in dictating what comes next, including after the gatherings expected during the construction holiday.

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