Montreal Public Health is urging anyone who’s been to a Latin dance event since July 31 to get tested for COVID-19.
In a public advisory, Montreal health officials said there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people who have attended several Latin dance events. Two of those individuals were “contagious” and “symptomatic” when they attended events in Montreal on Aug. 14 on St. Catherine Street, and Aug. 15 at Frédéric-Back Park, said public health director Mylène Drouin.
“As we know, the younger we are, the symptoms aren’t always as noticeable,” said Drouin in French at a press conference on Monday.
Latin dance events in Montreal have been attended by hundreds of people in that timeframe, both outdoors and indoors. Drouin estimates that they could be dealing with up to 500 attendees that are affected by the public advisory.
Officials have not yet been able to identify where the indoor events took place, while it is currently against Quebec’s COVID-19 restrictions to dance in indoor public spaces, such as bars.
Other Latin dance events in Park Lafontaine and Verdun could also be linked to the outbreak, said Drouin, as she prompted those attendees to get tested. Latin Groove Dance School wrote on its Facebook page that one of its dancers tested positive for the virus, after having visited restaurants and attending their outdoor dance activities in Park Lafontaine and Verdun.
There is currently no registry of attendees, which is making it difficult for health officials to contact those who were at the events.
“We are better to act quickly to avoid more of a spread,” Drouin said. “When we are not able to do contact tracing, they become events we call ‘super spreaders.'”
Under COVID-19 restrictions in Quebec, dancing is not permitted in any indoor public space, however outdoor events are still allowed. Drouin said people who attend outdoor dancing events should wash their hands regularly, wear masks, and stick to the same dancing partner, preferably someone from the same household.
“Banning these kinds of events would not help. It’s a bit like bars, it would only lead to more people doing it in an undesired context,” said Drouin. “If the rules are followed, the risk is lowered.”
On July 9, Quebec initially imposed restrictions that would not allow indoor dancing after it experienced outbreaks in relation to bars, especially in and around the Montreal area. A few days later on July 11, officials asked anyone who’s been to a bar in the city since Canada Day to get tested, prompting thousands to come forward, and dozens of related cases.