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COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know this weekend

The vaccination clinic at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal will be closing its doors next week. Pharmacists can now prescribe Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral drug, Paxlovid. Quebec's interim public health director says he's not ruling out maintaining masking measures as province enters its sixth wave. Here's what you need to know.

The vaccination clinic at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal will be closing its doors soon

People wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination clinic at Olympic Stadium in early March. The clinic will close as of next Thursday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
  • On Friday, Quebec reported 1,275 people in hospital (an increase of 37 from the previous day), including 62 in intensive care (a decrease of four from the previous day).
  • The province reported 3,182 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths. 
  • Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 970,951 confirmed cases, and 14,382 people have died.
  • The province also reported a total of 18,669,587 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered, including 20,898 doses in the last 24 hours. 
  • 91 per cent of the eligible population in the province (aged five and up) have received one dose of the vaccine; 87 per cent have received two doses, and 53 per cent have received three doses.

*The new cases are those reported to the Quebec government only. They are believed to be an underrepresentation of the virus's spread, given the limited availability of PCR tests and use of home testing kits.

*Quebec's Health Ministry announced it will no longer report its COVID-19 numbers on the weekend.

The vaccination clinic at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal will be closing its doors as of next Thursday, after getting out more than a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since February of 2021. 

Vaccinations will be available at the eight CLSCs in the east end of Montreal, said the regional health authority for the area, the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.

At its peak, roughly 3,000 people were vaccinated per day at the site, but that number averaged at 500 as of mid-February.

The CLSCs in the area will still offer vaccines with or without an appointment, the CIUSSS said in a news release Friday. 

A total of 1,040,232 doses of the vaccine have been distributed at the site as of Friday, which has also been used for mass vaccination during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak. 

Pharmacists now prescribing COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid

Quebec pharmacists can now prescribe Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid to positive symptomatic patients who are at risk of developing complications from the virus, the Health Ministry announced Friday. 

In a statement, the ministry said giving patients access to the medication through 1,900 pharmacies across the province will "encourage faster initiation of treatment to optimize the benefits for both the individual and the health-care system." 

Administered in pill form, the drug is designed to help the body fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reduce symptoms and shorten the period of illness. The Health Ministry expanded access to the treatment earlier this month. 

"Paxlovid is an additional tool at our disposal to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths among our most vulnerable people," said Health Minister Christian Dubé in a statement.

Seniors and those with health problems are invited to consult the criteria for the use of Paxlovid on the provincial health institute's website to see if they are likely to benefit from it. The use of the antiviral is not recommended for all patients due to drug interactions or contraindications.

6th wave could be as bad as 5th

A top infectious diseases specialist in Quebec said as the sixth wave of the pandemic accelerates across the province, the government should be doing more to curb it. 

On Thursday, the health minister said mask mandates are still expected to be lifted in two weeks, despite surging cases of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and differing views from the province's public health director. 

But infectious disease specialist Dr. Cécile Tremblay said the government must do more to protect hospital capacity. She says the province's health-care system could soon become overwhelmed — once again — with 10,000 health-care workers already off the job.

"I don't think the [government] message is appropriate to what the situation is right now," Tremblay said, noting it leaves at-risk populations to fend for themselves.

While she's not in favour of another complete shutdown, Tremblay is calling on the government to keep masking restrictions and to reduce capacity in some businesses where the risk of infection is greater, such as restaurants

"The pandemic is not over, and this sixth wave is probably going to be as bad as the fifth one. We should at least have the same sense of urgency," Tremblay said. 

Province not ruling out maintaining masking: public health director

Quebec's interim public health director says he's not ruling out maintaining the masking measure, as well as the possibility of reimposing some health measures in the wake of another surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Dr. Luc Boileau said Thursday he will be monitoring the situation closely, but is counting on the good sense of Quebecers to be careful and to reduce their contacts. His recommendations regarding the wearing of masks in public places are expected sometime next week.

"All options are on the table," he said. 

Meanwhile, the health minister says the government has no plan to add restrictions. Dubé told reporters he isn't planning on changing the province's current strategy, adding that "people have to learn to live with the virus." 

Confirmation of this sixth wave comes as Dubé kicked off consultations on his bill to put an end to the health emergency.

Top COVID-19 stories

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

       
  • Fever. 
  •    
  • New or worsening cough. 
  •    
  • Difficulty breathing. 
  •    
  • Sudden loss of smell without a stuffy nose.
  •    
  • Gastrointestinal issues (such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting).
  •    
  • Sore throat
  •    
  • Generalized muscle pain.
  •    
  • Headache.
  •    
  • Fatigue.
  •    
  • Loss of appetite.

If you think you may have COVID-19, the government asks that you call 1‑877‑644‑4545 to schedule an appointment at a screening clinic. 

To reserve an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, you can go on the online portal quebec.ca/covidvaccine. You can also call 1-877-644-4545.

You can find information on COVID-19 in the province here and information on the situation in Montreal here

 

With files from the Canadian Press and Sharon Yonan-Renold

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