Montreal Quebec COVID-19 bars

COVID-19 and bars: The virus doesn’t care what time it is

Arruda has talked about a second wave so frequently that it almost feels like it’ll be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Following a COVID-19 outbreak in the South Shore that originated in a bar, the Quebec government has imposed a midnight shutdown on bars, which begs the question: Is the virus only contagious after dark?

The question is as absurd as the government’s insistence on reopening businesses that are inherent to crowding — like restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas — without requiring people to wear masks indoors. It’s also the opinion of at least one epidemiology expert that bars should not have been allowed to reopen at all in light of COVID-19. So why did they?

The economy, we’re told. That matters more than whether or not we contain the virus, more than our overflowing ERs, more than over 5,600 deaths.

It’s not like bars didn’t want to reopen. Of course they did! But it’s not far-fetched to infer that some of them wanted to reopen because the paltry (or absence of) government aid during the shutdown meant that they had to choose between survival and safety; they couldn’t have both. We know this because it’s the same choice restaurants had, and it’s why so many opted to accommodate takeout and delivery.

So it’s baffling to hear the Quebec government say it cares about the economy while it only shells out significant financial boosts to large corporations rather than small businesses.

That said, paradoxical messaging has been the Quebec government’s MO throughout the pandemic. While it was strict with its shutdown at first in mid-March, the CAQ started talking about reopening businesses as early as April, while the virus was raging across the province and we were reporting hundreds of new cases per day.

Until very recently, the CAQ hadn’t committed to downright mandating masks despite recommending them strongly. It also reopened schools outside of Montreal, and never backtracked when an outbreak occurred in a Trois-Rivières classroom. It’s allowing up to 10 people from 3 different households to congregate both indoors and outside, even though it’s difficult to maintain a two-metre distance indoors (especially with children).

It’s not surprising that at ground level, people are confused about what the safety measures are actually supposed to be. That might be why they’re not wearing COVID-19 preventing masks inside tight spaces like those cute little fruiteries in Montreal, let alone bars and restaurants. It might be why some feel that being bored with the shutdown is reason enough to reopen. After all, the government’s been conditioning us for a reopening since the beginning of the pandemic; how bad can things be?

The problem is, things are very bad — worse than anywhere else in the country — and without firm leadership from the Quebec government, without fulfilling its commitment to testing 14,000 people per day, it’s hard to know whether our daily new cases are actually going down or if we’re just blind to a much harsher reality.

In the meantime, Horacio Arruda has talked about a second wave so frequently that it almost feels like it’ll be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Is he warning us or telling us very plainly that it’ll happen and there’s nothing the Quebec government will do about it?

I don’t have the answers and I’m honestly hoping for the best, just like everyone else. What I know for sure is that COVID-19 is contagious all day, every day, and that when this crisis is over, no one will look to Quebec as a model for how to handle a pandemic. No one. ■

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