150 deaths, 10,000 hospitalizations per day in Montreal if social distancing measures lifted: study

Deaths and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 could increase dramatically in Montreal if social distancing measures are lifted, according to a new study.

Published by the Quebec Public Health Institute, the study predicts that deaths could increase to 150 per day by July as new cases jump to 10,000 per day.

Co-author and medical epidemiologist Gaston De Serres said the city is at a precarious point.

“In Montreal the number of hospitalizations day-to-day is not going down the way we see elsewhere,” he said. “We're probably in a situation in Montreal where we're really near what we call the epidemic threshold. In that situation, if you start increasing contact between individuals, the epidemic will start to grow again.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has repeatedly pushed back the reopening date of schools and businesses on the island, with the current target being May 25. The study was based on that same timeline and doesn't take into account the situation in the province's long-term care homes, many of which have had deadly outbreaks.

The study's model was based on social contacts increasing by 15 to 30 per cent over a number of months, which De Serres said wouldn't happen in reality.

“If we see in Montreal the number of hospitalizations is increasing out of the range we want it to be kept in, there will be changes in policies and direction the government will take,” he said.

He added that there are ways for social interaction to increase without cases going up. On Friday, Quebec public health director Horacio Arruda warned that physical distancing is still vital and called on people to follow instructions if they receive a call from the public health department.

“Please understand that (not following physical distancing) creates problems and effects our capacity to do the work to prevent cases,” he said. “The success of the measures we take relies on everyone's cooperation.” 

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