Côte-St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein is urging all residents who attended synagogue in the two weeks prior to the shuttering of congregations throughout the municipality last Thursday to self-isolate for 14 days.
The west-end municipality has more places of worship than any city of comparable size in Quebec, including five major synagogue congregations and several smaller ones known as shtiebels. A shtiebel, Yiddish for little room, is a place used for communal Jewish prayer; it is much smaller than a synagogue.
It is not unusual for people to participate in prayer service and events in more than one synagogue, the mayor said Sunday.
“There is so much mixing between the religious institutions,” Brownstein said. “I am saying if you go to any of the congregations, self-isolate for 14 days.”
It was confirmed on the weekend that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Raskin of the Beth Chabad Côte-St-Luc synagogue and community centre has COVID-19. A wedding was held at the Kildare Rd. centre on March 12. A March 19 post on the centre’s Facebook page said “a few cases” had tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The letter went on to say that anyone who was in the synagogue from March 14 onward should self-isolate.
As well, a resident of the Côte-St-Luc seniors’ facility Le King David was rushed to a hospital and tested positive for COVID-19 last Tuesday after attending a large wedding March 12 at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount.
Brownstein said late last week that there were several cases reported in Côte-St-Luc.
“The problem,” he said Sunday, “is that we are not getting the exact numbers.”
That there are so many places of worship was one factor in Côte-St-Luc city council’s decision to declare a state of emergency last Tuesday — a power granted to cities under the Civil Protection Act — limiting social and religious gatherings to 10 people and asking public health authorities and the Montreal police to help enforce the rule.
The decision, Brownstein explained, was based on demographics. Proportionally, Côte-St-Luc has more seniors than any other Quebec municipality — about 30 per cent of its population is 65 or older — and seniors, who often have underlying health conditions, are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Côte-St-Luc also has hundreds of snowbirds — people who spend part of the winter outside Canada in warmer climes — and most are seniors. It also has several long-term care centres and seniors’ residences.
On Friday city council adopted another resolution, ordering the closing of non-essential commercial establishments, places of worship and religious institutions and requesting that the minister of public security extend the state of emergency declared on March 17.
Brownstein said he was gratified to hear of Premier François Legault’s announcement on Sunday mandating all shopping centres, dining areas of restaurants, hairdressing and beauty salons close as of midnight and remain closed until May 1.
“I think this is a good move by the province,” he said.
Even before the imposition of the measures adopted on Friday, Côte-St-Luc city officials were on the phone with shopping centres, urging them to close, Brownstein said. A few hours before the resolution was adopted, the Quartier Cavendish (formerly the Cavendish Mall), where people were still gathering despite repeated requests by public health and government authorities that they stay home, announced it would close its doors except for its pharmacy, supermarket and butcher.
“All the synagogues and shtiebels in our community are closed, and we have public security checking to make sure they are closed,” Brownstein said.
In addition, he said, the municipality would like guidance and direction from public health and provincial government authorities about everything from increased testing for the virus to enforcement of rules in place and requiring more people to stay home.
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