After two years of cancellations and confinements, festivals and events are bringing life back to the city of Montreal.
But some experts say those events can also bring COVID-19 infections.
“Not only can these events become super-spreaders, almost undoubtedly they had already led to some super-spreader events,” said Dr. Donald Vinh, an epidemiologist at the McGill Universtiy Health Centre (MUHC).
This weekend’s Montreal Comiccon could be one of those events.
A message posted on social media encouraged attendees to test themselves for the disease, claiming, “there have been several people now who have tested positive for COVID, artist/vendor/attendee alike which means they got it on the weekend.”
“Among vendors, among attendees, across the board, I would say maybe 15 per cent of us were masked,” said Kayla Sentes, a vendor at Comiccon.
“For an event of that size, and that many people and always questionable ventilation in buildings like that, it’s upsetting to see.”
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Meanwhile, Comiccon officials told Global News all public health guidelines were put in place.
“So far we have heard of only a handful of positive (cases), which could be compared to when going to Costco, Jazz Fest, NHL draft or Walmart,” wrote Leeja Murphy, a publicist for the event. “Montreal Comiccon will always encourage people to be careful and follow the government recommendations, and if someone does feel under the weather, to get tested out of precaution.”
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The concern comes as the province is in its seventh wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the BA.5 variant.
“This variant is highly contagious, so we’re seeing a lot of transmission,” said Dr. Marie-France Raynault, Quebec’s senior strategic adviser for public health.
According to Quebec’s public health institute (INSPQ), there are currently almost 1,800 people in hospital but only 43 of them are in intensive care, which health officials find encouraging.
Rise in COVID-19 cases causing concern as Montreal festival season begins
Public health says they are also not seeing many super spreader events.
And they don’t envision bringing health measures back, such as the mandatory use of masks, but they do encourage people to wear a face covering when in crowded or closed spaces.
“I believe in education and not always in mandatory measures,” Raynault said.
Experts encourage people to make sure they follow good public health practices. For Dr. Vinh, it’s all about the “three V rule.”
“First V is vaccination, that’s the best protection against life-threatening disease,” Vinh said. “Two is ventilation; make sure that you’re adequately ventilating your spaces as much as possible.
“The third V: very good masks.”
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