COVID-19 in Quebec: Legault points to stable intensive care numbers as positive sign

A total of 150 people have now died from COVID-19 in Quebec, but Premier François Legault says the small increase in the number of hospitalizations, particularly in intensive care, is encouraging.

Province's long-term care homes remain major point of concern, accounting for nearly half of deaths

A patient is seen arriving at Notre-Dame Hospital in Montreal. The province's COVID-19 hospitalization rate hasn't increased as much as anticipated, the premier said Tuesday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
  • The Quebec government is projecting between 1,200 and 9,000 people could die of COVID-19 by the end of April. Hospitalizations are expected to peak around April 18. 
  • Quebec has 9,340 cases and 150 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 583 people in hospital, including 164 in intensive care.
  • Quebec veterinarians say they are ready to operate ventilators on humans, if required.
  • Quebec police handed out hundreds of tickets over the weekend to enforce social distancing rules.
  • The shutdown of non-essential economic activity in Quebec has been extended to May 4.

A total of 150 people have now died from COVID-19 in Quebec, but Premier François Legault says the small increase in the number of hospitalizations, particularly in intensive care, is encouraging.

In all, Quebec now has 9,340 confirmed cases. Of those, 583 people are in hospital, an increase of 50 cases, and there are 164 people in intensive care, the same as a day earlier. 

"It's the good news of the day," Legault said at Tuesday's briefing.

"This doesn't mean we can ease our efforts. We cannot spoil all that we've accomplished in the last few weeks."

Legault acknowledged some caution is required when assessing the hospitalization numbers because not every sick person in a long-term care home (CHSLD) is being transferred to hospital.

But even if that were the case, the rate would still be lower than the province anticipated, he said.  

The main area of concern remains CHSLDs, many of which are struggling to contain the virus. Nearly 45 per cent of the people who have died were residents at a long-term care home.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said doctors and nurses who aren't needed at their usual jobs, given the closures to certain clinics and services amid the outbreak, are being redeployed to CHSLDs.

"We're doing everything we can to protect the elderly," she said.

On Tuesday, public health experts with the Quebec government released their projections, estimating that between 1,200 and 9,000 people could die of COVID-19 by the end of April.

The province released two scenarios:

The optimistic scenario projects 29,212 confirmed cases, with as many as 1,404 people in hospital at once and 1,263 deaths by April 30.

A second scenario projects 59,845 confirmed cases, with as many as 3,208 people hospitalized at one time and 8,860 deaths.

Arruda had been openly reluctant to unveil the data, but the province has been under pressure to follow in Ontario's footsteps.

Modelling revealed by public health officials there last week showed they expect COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the ramifications of which could last up to two years.

Earlier in the day, Legault warned the most dire scenarios could be alarming to the public. But he said if Quebecers continue to follow the social distancing guidelines those will be avoidable.

Legault and Arruda were not at the briefing detailing the projections, which were presented by Deputy Health Minister Yvan Gendron and an epidemiologist and government consultant, Richard Massé. 

The premier said he wanted to ensure the projections are not viewed as political.

"I think the answers, the figures, the forecasts they have to be done by expert not by politicians," he said.

Outbreaks continue to grow in long-term care homes

Hundreds of seniors' and long-term care homes have reported cases of COVID-19, and there are outbreaks at several locations. 

In Laval, the long-term care home CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée has reported 105 cases, nearly half of its resident population. Eight people have died. 

At Montreal's hospital specialized in geriatrics, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, there have been nine deaths attributable to the disease and 52 patients who have tested positive for the virus. 

Quebec Premier Francois Legault follows Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann to a daily news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Hospitalizations in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.

Quebec has been hit harder by the pandemic, experts say, because of an earlier March break, with more travellers coming or returning to the province in late February and early March.

CBC journalists compared the growth in the number of hospitalizations in the three major provinces the pandemic has spread widely: Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. 

Quebec has seen the sharpest rise, while B.C.'s curve appears relatively flat. 

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia have increased at a slow rate over the past two weeks, but have gone up dramatically in Quebec and Ontario. (Justin McElroy/CBC News)

About the Author

Verity Stevenson is a reporter with CBC in Montreal. She has previously worked for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star in Toronto, and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John.

With files from Kate McKenna and Justin McElroy

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