The number of COVID-19 cases connected to a karaoke bar in Quebec City has grown to more than 30, public health authorities say, contributing to a jump in new cases in the region not seen since May.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed on Tuesday that 12 more cases had been linked to Bar Kirouac, in the city’s Saint-Sauveur district.
Dubé said video taken at the bar recently has been circulating on social media, and he suggested that patrons and staff could be fined.
“Are we going to consider fines in this case? The answer is yes,” he said.
“We’re talking about karaoke where people who think that, because they are friends who know each other well, they can let their guard down: take off the mask, pass the microphone, get close together to sing. This is all very nice, but we can’t do it anymore.”
The first case connected to Bar Kirouac was reported to local public health authorities on Saturday morning. By Monday, 17 cases among clients and staff had been diagnosed. As of Tuesday evening, 31 cases have been linked to the bar.
Going to a bar is a higher-risk activity in general during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jacques Girard, acting director of the public health authority responsible for Quebec City.
But he said the outbreak at Bar Kirouac was likely exacerbated by the particular chansonnier style of entertainment for which the venue is known — where the audience joins the performer in singing the song.
“We’re not in the same situation as the Grand Théâtre de Québec, for instance,” Girard said, referring to a 1,900-seat theatre in the city.
“It’s not a show where people are sitting down quietly…. So it’s karaoke, but it’s also singing along. And this situation really makes us think this is probably the reason why we have so many cases.”
Dubé has been less restrained in his own comments when discussing the outbreak at the bar.
On Tuesday, he was visibly exasperated and repeatedly mentioned that a microphone was shared between patrons. “This is not acceptable,” he said
Quebec City’s numbers climb
Many of Bar Kirouac’s regulars are over 60, and so they face a higher risk of complications if infected with the novel coronavirus, Girard said.
Once public health officials learned of the first case, they launched an effort to test staff and patrons who frequented the bar between Aug. 23 and 29. Those who have tested positive are in self-isolation.
The bar’s owner, Lucien Simard, has said the establishment will remain closed until Sept. 10.
Simard also said all prescribed hygiene measures were in place at the bar, including visors and masks for employees, and plexiglass to separate the singing stage from the other clients.
The cases connected to Kirouac make up a significant portion of 67 new cases reported in Quebec City in the last seven days.
Four schools — two primary and two secondary — have each reported at least one case, and 120 students are being kept home as a consequence.
The announcement of 31 new cases in the region on Tuesday is the first time that number has been reached since May 30.