COVID-19 in Quebec: Arruda recommends wearing masks when distancing not possible

Friday, Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda changed his public opinon on masks. He said he now recommends people wear a mask in public if they anticipate being in a situation where they cannot stay two metres away from other people.

Overloaded Montreal hospital transferring patients elsewhere to free up space

Pedestrians walk past a closed business in Montreal on Friday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Quebec has 23,267 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,446 people have died — an increase of 106 deaths since Friday.
  • There are 1,509 people in hospital, including 217 in intensive care. Here's a guide to the numbers.
  • Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda says he now recommends people wear a mask in public if they anticipate being in a situation where they cannot stay two metres away from other people.
  • The Red Cross is setting up beds in a LaSalle arena to treat residents of long-term care homes.
  • Quebec will release details on how it will ease restrictions next week. The process is expected to start May 4.

As the province prepares to unveil its plan to gradually reopen aspects of public life, Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda has changed his public opinion on masks, now recommending people wear them if they anticipate being in a situation where distancing isn't possible.

He said people should closely follow guidelines the government released yesterday for wearing them, including washing hands before putting one on and removing them. 

Arruda said people could make their own masks, as long as they are clean and have at least two layers of fabric.

Arruda had been adamant before that his fear was masks would provide Quebecers with a false sense of security because they may be more inclined to touch their face when wearing one. 

He also didn't want people to purchase masks in short supply that would be more useful to health-care workers. 

Horacio Arruda, Quebec director of National Public Health explains the right way to use a mask during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Frida. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Arruda, Quebec Premier François Legault and Health Minister Danielle McCann are no longer holding briefings on weekends.

But Public Health released today's statistics on the pandemic. One hundred and six more people have died of the illness caused by the coronavirus — the fourth-highest single-day increase so far.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 651 — the lowest increase in new cases since April 15 — to a total of 23,267.

Ten fewer people are in intensive care but 49 more are in hospital. 

Legault's office is expected to release a statement on the numbers and any important updates to the province this afternoon.

Sacré-Coeur transferring patients elsewhere

One Montreal hospital in the grips of a COVID-19 outbreak is having to transfer patients elsewhere. 

Earlier this week, Sacré-Coeur Hospital in northern Montreal revealed at least 120 of its patients had tested positive for the coronavirus, including some cancer patients, and two had died. 

The hospital has since taken measures to prevent further spread, but is sending geriatric and orthopedic patients to Jean-Talon Hospital. 

Sacré-Coeur is one of the few hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients, but the nearby Fleury Hospital will begin accepting the patients as well, Radio-Canada has learned. 

Kathleen Bertrand, president of the FIQ-SPSNIM, the union that represents CIUSSS Nord-de-l'Ile-de-Montreal health-care workers, said the health authority should have expected an explosion of cases at Sacré-Coeur.

She blames a shortage of personal protective equipment — namely masks and gowns.

"The CIUSSS says things like everything is under control but at the same time, if it was under control, why have they decided to test all the workers when it's been weeks that we've been asking for that," she said.

"Every time I go in to work, it's a risk because I am not well-protected. Why am I not protected? When they say there isn't a lack of equipment, it's not true."

Separate worlds

The virus has created "two separate worlds," Premier François Legault said Friday — one inhabited by the residents of long-term care homes and the other by the rest of society.

The situation in some private seniors' homes — such as one in Dorval that saw at least 31 deaths in less than a month — has led him to consider making all long-term care facilities public.

"I want to make sure the quality of service is the best," Legault said. "We owe that to [the elderly]."

Quebec is currently in need of thousands of workers to fill the gaps in its health-care network. As of Thursday, nearly 10,000 absences were recorded — about half due to workers in 14-day quarantine.

With files from Sarah Leavitt and Radio-Canada's Thomas Gerbet and Alex Boissoneault

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