'High risk' karaoke linked to COVID-19 outbreak that hit three Quebec City schools

Quebec City's director of public health is encouraging all those who frequented bars in the city's Saint-Sauveur neighbourhood to get tested for COVID-19 after a recent outbreak that began in a karaoke bar spread into at least three schools in the region.

Dr. Jacques Girard pointed to the Bar Kirouac as the source of a recent outbreak that has been responsible for at least 40 new positive cases, with the number climbing quickly -- it's up from 30 reported yesterday.

"It's clear this was the origin of this flare-up," Girard said. "It's as if people forgot the virus is still with us. We are never sheltered from someone who might be a carrier."

The infections contracted at the bar ended up leading to new cases at three of the five Quebec City schools that have reported COVID-19 cases, he added.

"We are pretty sure that three positive cases, namely children, got the virus from somebody who was celebrating someting in this bar -- Kirouac," he said.

He said the virus began to spread beyond the bar on Aug. 23, when people went home unaware that they were infected.

The bar could face fines for not adhering to public health safety measures. He said, however, that the best route the government can take it to convince establishments and patrons that complying with health measures is the best guard against infection.

"The best tool we have is to convince them that it's not trivial to go in those places, especially if they know that it could be harmful to their health," he said. 

Girard said he's spoken to director of public health Horacio Arruda about the possibility of banning karaoke from bars during the health crisis, but he added that singing in general has been shown to carry a risk of spreading infection.

"All singing poses a problem," said Girard.

"Personally, I would not go to a karaoke. For me, karaoke is a high-risk activity."

Arruda said at a seperate news conference that he's concerned about upcoming holidays such as Halloween and Christmas - festivities that typically bring large groups of people together that include singing.

"We would like to sing at Christmas time... There is going to be parties at Halloween, you know all those kinds of things that will make us come back to the relfexes we had before, but we cannot do that the same way," he said. 

Arruda added that the bar could have set up a contact registry and been able to trace all clients, but because they did not, public health was forced to reveal infromation to the public that would have otherwise been kept private.

Public health officials are visiting bars in the region to ensure they are following health measures.

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