Montreal to use STM buses as mobile testing clinics

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by Amy Luft, digital reporter, CTV News Montreal

Montreal public health will begin using STM buses to test people with COVID-19 in the city’s hotspots.

The director of public health Mylene Drouin made the announcement Monday afternoon alongside Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Philippe Schnobb, chairperson for Montreal's public transit authority, the STM.

A mobile clinic will be able to test some 100 people per day, in addition to clinics and other testing sites that are already in place. 

Those tests will be reserved for people displaying symptoms of COVID-19 -- including fever, difficulty breathing and dry cough -- and will not be for screening.

Drouin said the city had heard from people who said their employers required a COVID-19 screening before returning to work, and stressed to employers not to enforce testing for asymptomic workers.

Montrealers with symptoms are asked to call 1-877-644-4545 to set up an appointment, and are instructed to isolate themselves until that apointment is made.

STM drivers will move the units to and from the site; the buses will be disinfected before drivers return the buses to the station, said Schnobb.

SUPPORT FOR DELAY IN REOPENING

Last week, the Quebec government said in a news conference that it would double its COVID-19 testing by May 8 to 14,000 per day, and would focus on areas with a higher percentage of cases, including in Montreal North.

As of Monday, Montreal has 16,606 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,410 people have died; that's an increase of 355 cases and 45 deaths in the past 24 hours.

There are currently 1,055 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 137 of which are in intensive care.

Though the city is seeing a plateau in the number of hospitalizations, “at the same time, globally, we’re not seeing a decrease in the epidemiological curve,” said Drouin.

Drouin said she supported the Quebec government's decision to delay the reopening of stores in the Montreal area by one week.

“We’ll see next week, with the data that we have and with the work we’ve done to increase our capacity if we’re able to reopen in a secure manner,” said Drouin.

Plante also said she fully supported the measure.

“Though the battle is not over in Montreal, we are continuing the fight, we’re thinking outside the box, and we’re putting all our energy and efforts together to get through this as fast as possible but also in a safe way for all our citizens,” she said.

BUSY WEEKEND IN MONTREAL PARKS

Both Drouin and Plante commented about how many of the city's parks were busy due to the beautiful weather on the weekend. Plante stressed that while most people were following the two-metre physical distancing guideline, some were not. Therefore, she said, the city decided to close parking lots to several of the city's larger parks to prevent overcrowding.

She said she does not intend to close parks, commenting on how many Montrealers don't have access to the outdoors other than in the city's parks, but stressed that physical distancing must be maintained.

Plante again urged Montrealers not to gather, be it in a private backyard on in a public space, and to wear masks when they are not able to maintain a two-metre gap. 

Police officers will continue their patrols to ensure the rules are respected, she said.

The mayor also spoke of new family-activity streets that opened in Plateau Mont-Royal on the weekend, giving equal access to pedestrians, cyclists and local car traffic. She said more of those streets will be opened soon.

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