Quebec City karaoke night outbreak now linked to 10 secondary cases, including 3 in schools

September 2, 2020
Quebec City karaoke night outbreak now linked to 10 secondary cases, including 3 in schools

A karaoke night at a Quebec City bar has been linked to a growing number of cases of COVID-19, including several at local schools, and there are reports the bar’s customers flouted isolation orders while waiting for their test results.

Public health officials in Quebec City said Wednesday they have traced 10 secondary cases of COVID-19 back to Bar Kirouac on top of the original 40 linked to a karaoke night there on Aug. 23.

“We are pretty sure that three positive cases, namely children, got the virus from somebody who was celebrating something in this bar,” said Dr. Jacques Girard, who heads the Quebec City public health authority.

Girard said his office has shifted focus to deal with “people who tested positive [and] may have gone to other places, in particular, other bars.”

The owners of La Gamelle, another Quebec City bar that offers karaoke nights, said they have temporarily closed their establishment after learning they served two customers from Bar Kirouac who should have been in self-isolation on Saturday and Sunday.

Those two customers visited La Gamelle after learning they may have been infected at Bar Kirouac and were waiting for their test results — which ultimately came back positive.

“I find it a little dishonest of them,” said Geneviève Tremblay, La Gamelle’s co-owner. “They should have stayed at home as required by the government.”

Videos show close contact

Quebec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, singled out Bar Kirouac on Tuesday, saying he was looking into fines for customers and staff after videos on social media emerged showing patrons in close contact and sharing microphones.

The developments come as public health authorities in Quebec City deal with a recent spike in cases of COVID-19. On Wednesday, Quebec’s health ministry reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 in Quebec City — down from Tuesday’s increase of 31 but still considerably higher than the relative trickle of new cases over the past two months.

Before the weekend, new cases in the region had not reached double digits since July 13.

Another bar in the area, Bistro Vanier, has also been temporarily closed until Sept. 10.

In a social media post, the bar’s owners said they were shutting down as a “preventive measure” given the “events surrounding COVID-19 in other establishments.” A connection to Kirouac is not mentioned.

The post says that all Bistro Vanier staff were tested and their tests came back negative.

‘A little mean’

The two people went into La Gamelle even though a sign taped to the bar’s entrance specifically asked Kirouac customers to stay out.

“It was a little mean of them to come and endanger my customers and employees,” Tremblay said.

The owners of La Gamelle sent their staff to be tested for COVID-19 and have closed the bar temporarily while it is disinfected. (Guylaine Bussière/Radio-Canada)

Tremblay and her partner, Jacques Drouin, found out Monday that the two Kirouac regulars had contracted COVID-19. They decided to close their bar to thoroughly disinfect it and sent their employees to be tested.

Drouin said he spoke to one of the two infected patrons, who confirmed to him that he had, indeed, contracted the disease.

Lucien Simard, the owner of Bar Kirouac, also said that some of his regulars who were supposed to be in isolation went to other bars in recent days.

“There are people who sent me messages telling me that they were infected but that they were in other bars,” Simard told Radio-Canada in an interview. “You see the problem?”

Arruda warns against singing

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, said it is crucial that people remain vigilant and adhere to the province’s safety protocols as the coronavirus can be lurking anywhere.

Arruda said singing has proven to be a way to propagate COVID-19 as it spreads airborne droplets more efficiently than other activities. People should avoid activities such as karaoke and dancing, he said.

“The droplets go into the air, and you will get infected,” he said during a news conference in the Lac St-Jean region Wednesday, suggesting people do such things online instead so the droplets stay on the screen rather than spread.

“I am concerned with the fact that, if we do repeat this kind of karaoke situation, it won’t be good for the control of the transmission in the community.”

In this case, local health authorities are getting the situation under control, he said.

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