Alcohol consumption skyrockets as pandemic continues, says Montreal public health

Montreal public health officials say the city remains in an “uncomfortable” when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, and while gaining control of the situation is a constant concern, it’s not the only one.

“We are preoccupied with the collateral impact of this pandemic,” said Montreal’s top doctor Mylène Drouin during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Drouin pointed to a dramatic increase in the use of alcohol, cannabis and tobacco products.

“Consuming those substance is a way for some people to to control their stress,” she said.

Drouin said one third of Montrealers reported increasing their alcohol consumption of late. The issue is more pronounced among 18 to 34 year olds with 41 per cent reporting an increase.

Meanwhile, the number of people saying they drink every day has doubled.

“And we see the same thing for tobacco and for the consumption of cannabis in the population,” Drouin said, adding it’s important to find other ways or strategies to cope with stress and loneliness.

Officials are inviting people in mental distress to get in touch with a professional, either by calling the government health line at 811, reaching out to a family doctor or through a local CLSC clinic.

Montreal sees increase in daily cases

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While the number of daily COVID-19 cases were plateauing in October, Drouin said there was a jump in daily averages this week, from 250 cases to 280.

“The reproductive rate is above one, meaning people have more contacts,” Drouin added.

The Parc-extension neighbourhood remains the hot spot on the island with a positivity rate of 11 per cent, compared to five per cent for most boroughs.

Drouin said, however, that certain boroughs had doubled their positivity rates in the last week, including Lachine, LaSalle and Rivière-des-Prairies.

“We encourage the population in those boroughs, if you have symptoms, if you have been in contact with a case or have been in a place with an outbreak, do not hesitate to get a screening test,” she said.

Drouin explained public health officials will be using a new approach called backwards tracing intervention when investigating case contacts.

The goal is to quickly identify super spreader events and retrace contacts that were at those events.

“Research has shown that 10 to 20 per cent of cases are responsible for more than 80 per cent of transmission of the virus and this transmission is linked to events that we call super spreaders,” Drouin said.

According to public health, super spreader events have specific characteristics identified by the “Three C’s”: crowded places, close contacts in a setting where people are singing, yelling or breathing heavily from doing sports, for example, and closed spaces with poor ventilation.

Montreal Outbreaks

Despite a slight increase in the daily number of cases, Drouin said the number of outbreaks in Montreal remains stable.

Of the 247 active outbreaks, 60 per cent of them are small and well controlled with less than five infections.

Schools boast the highest number of outbreaks at 112, followed by workplace settings at 53, day cares at 36, long-term care facilities and private seniors’ residences at 34, and finally 12 outbreaks in the community.

Drouin said the situation among Montreal’s seniors is worrisome with the more serious outbreaks happening in long-term care facilities and and seniors home. Furthermore Drouin noted a shift this week in the proportion of cases in seniors over 65.

“They represented eight per cent of our cases and now it’s more than 14 per cent,” she said, adding they are more vulnerable to severe forms of the illness.

Drouin said that regional health teams are on the ground in affected facilities to ensure all prevention and infection control measures are in place and to help bring transmission of the virus under control.

— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector

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