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Montreal, May 11, 2020 — Several groups serving Black and Asian communities in Côte-des-Neiges are joining City Councillor Marvin Rotrand in demanding more mobile testing units and masks for the area.

In a letter sent this morning to Mayor Valérie Plante, Councillor Rotrand called on her to provide free reusable masks to the Borough’s vulnerable population in the same manner as the City has done in Montréal-Nord and Rivière-des-Prairies, where 40,000 and 10,000 masks were handed out for free last week to local residents in these boroughs respectively.

Councillor Rotrand also pressed the Mayor to ask Montreal Public Health to increase the number of mobile testing clinics in the borough, and to ask the local CIUSSS (Health and Social Service Center) to extend the operating hours of the testing center at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH).

Based on the latest Santé Montréal data, the borough ranks third after Montréal-Nord in terms of infection and death linked to COVID-19. As of May 10, out of 19,971 cases in Montreal, Côte-des-Neiges-NDG registered 1,559 cases (after Montréal-Nord and Ahuntsic-Cartierville) and 164 deaths of a total of 1,863 in the City (after Ahuntsic-Cartierville and Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve).

At the present time, there is one testing clinic at the JGH for the entire CIUSSS territory, which covers CDN-NDG, a part of the Ville-Marie and the Plateau Mont-Royal boroughs, Mount-Royal, Parc-Extension, Westmount, Montreal West, Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead.

It is also the only testing clinic that is open for six hours, from 12 pm to 6 pm, by appointment only. Testing units in other CIUSSS are open for eight to twelve hours, either from 10 am to 6 pm, or from 8 am to 8 pm.

“It is unacceptable that there is one testing unit for five municipalities and five Montreal boroughs and that it also happens to be the one with the shortest opening hours, ” said Sharon Nelson, First Vice-President of Jamaica Association of Montreal.

“This does not allow easy access to testing for ordinary people, especially those who reside in more remote areas of the borough. It’s woefully inadequate, inaccessible and unfair for the diverse and disadvantaged population of Côte-des-Neiges alone,” she added.

Last week, at the borough council meeting, Nelson asked for more mobile units in the borough. She was told by officials that there would be three mobile units outfitted on STM buses to be deployed in the borough. However, there was no consultation with local groups as to the location of these mobile units.

“All city councillors must pay more attention to disadvantaged residents’ health needs, particularly those who are racialized, people with low income and new immigrants,” added Tiffany Callender, Executive Director of the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association.

“The people we serve daily don’t’ know where the clinic is. That’s why we’re concerned about undercounting victims of COVID-19,” she said.

Ramon Vicente, Vice-President – External Affairs for the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS), agreed.

“Many Filipino residents live in the Darlington and the Barclay-Snowdon areas, so to get there, they have to get on at least two buses. These days, our seniors and mothers with young children do not feel safe to sit on the bus for 30 or 40 minutes,” he said. “And then young people who want to accompany their parents or grandparents are afraid of being fined for not observing physical distancing.”

Last week, all three organizations and CRARR called on borough officials and Public Health Montreal to allocate more resources and support for local vulnerable population groups, particularly racialized communities, many of whom are English-speaking and of low income, and work in health care institutions in the area.

“This situation shows serious disparities in terms of allocation of and access to health resources. Public health and city authorities should consult local groups immediately in order to get masks and tests to them as soon as possible. It’s a race against the clock to stop the spread,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.