During a press conference on July 21, the province’s director of public health, Luc Boileau, presented the latest advice to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Quebec. These things aren’t what you might call rivets, so we can’t blame you for skipping. If you weren’t present, here are the opinions of several experts and the main takeaways.

First, Boileau clarified that, for the moment, he prefers to encourage what he called “basic precautionary measures” – including hand washing, social distancing and mask-wearing – rather than making them again mandatory.

In particular, he called on those deemed vulnerable to protect themselves by masking themselves, but stressed that these measures will remain a personal choice.

“To say it’s a personal decision and responsibility to wear a mask and protect others is beyond ridiculous,” said Dr. Mark Goldberg, a professor in McGill University’s Department of Medicine and environmental epidemiologist, in a email to MTL Blog.

“People don’t like masks and will only wear them if it’s mandatory,” he explained. “We are forcing people to wear seat belts because we know it will save lives. We know masks, especially good ones like N95s, protect people.”

“At this point, it should be strongly recommended to wear a mask on public transport AND at every gathering of many people (be it a festival, a wedding, a political event, a scientific congress, a religious gathering, etc.),” said Dr. Anne Gatignol, professor of microbiology and immunology at McGill University, to Blog MTL.

Goldberg was unhappy with Boileau’s only gentle encouragement of mask-wearing among vulnerable people. He called the current strategy “essentially criminal insofar as the outcome of these policies is clear – people will get sick”.

At press conference, Boileau tried to distinguish between the current wave of infections and those of years past. “It is important at this stage to remember that this disease is less virulent, it causes fewer deaths. We had more deaths because we had many more people who have caught COVID,” he claimed (emphasis mine), calling the challenges posed by Omicron and its variants a “new world.”

Despite the increase in cases, Boileau cited INESS projections which seem to indicate a plateau close to the number of hospitalizations in Quebec. “This does not mean [hospitalizations] are falling,” he said. “They’re still high, but they’re not going up.”

“Anyone with a basic knowledge of infectious diseases and public health should be alarmed by the upward trend in hospitalizations,” Goldberg countered.

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