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People wait outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, on Sept. 7, 2020.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Montreal health officials are asking people to be prudent when it comes to social activities as key COVID-19 indicators continue to rise.

Mylene Drouin told a news conference on Wednesday that the city – the hardest hit COVID-19 area in the country – has about 20 outbreaks, including one in a daycare and two at schools.

But the biggest cause for concern remains private gatherings and activities such as barbecues and postsport activities. Those small outbreaks will end up spreading to schools and long-term care homes, warned Dr. Drouin, the city’s public health director.

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So that means people need to exercise caution, in particular with people they know.

“We ask people to be more vigilant when they are in social activities,” she said.

Dr. Drouin said the Montreal area has at least 69 COVID-19 cases in 64 different schools.

She said that in all but two of those cases, the infection was acquired outside the school. One of the cases of transmission within a school was from teacher to student.

Long lineups were reported in western Montreal over the weekend with worried parents looking to get their children tested.

“What we’ve seen with the reopening of school is that when there was one case in one school, the parents were preoccupied and went for a screening test when it wasn’t indicated,” Dr. Drouin said.

She assured that when there’s a case in a school, parents of children identified as moderate contacts will be advised to self-isolate and get a test during that period.

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“I know parents are worried … but if your kids haven’t been in contact with positive cases, testing isn’t necessary,” Dr. Drouin said.

Quebec introduced a four-level, colour-coded COVID-19 alert system Tuesday – green for vigilance, yellow for an early warning, orange for moderate alert and red for maximum alert.

Dr. Drouin said Montreal is listed at the green level, but could find itself at yellow in the next week if the situation doesn’t improve.

On Wednesday, Quebec health officials reported 180 new cases of COVID-19.

The province also announced three additional deaths linked to the disease from earlier in the month and withdrew two other deaths after investigations determined they weren’t caused by COVID-19.

The province has now reported 64,056 confirmed cases and 5,771 deaths.

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No deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, but the number of hospitalizations increased by eight to 113, while intensive care cases decreased by one to 14.

Meanwhile, one of the three Quebec cabinet ministers self-isolating after being in the presence of a local mayor who contracted the disease says he’s tested negative.

Transport Minister François Bonnardel says on social media that he’s relieved with the result, but will remain in preventive isolation for another week.

Dr. Theresa Tam says rising COVID-19 case counts in several parts of the country understandably worry parents who are sending their children back to school this month. She says keeping distant, wearing masks and washing hands is vital not only among students and their families, but for everyone who wants to keep schools from suffering outbreaks. The Canadian Press

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