COVID-19 in Quebec: Death toll surpasses 1,000; 850 of dead were seniors in care

With 102 more recorded deaths, the death toll from COVID-19 in Quebec is now 1,041— the vast majority, residents of long-term care homes. Against that backdrop, the government is preparing a plan to reopen the economy, schools and daycares.

Premier mulls gradual opening of schools, daycares while grappling with seniors' homes

A sign with that reads, in French, 'We love you, grandma' is shown outside a long-term care home in Montreal. Most of those who have died from COVID-19 in Quebec were residents of CHSLDs and other kinds of seniors' residences. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Quebec has 20,126 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 1,041 people have died. Of those, some 850 were residents of long-term care institutions or other seniors' homes.
  • There are 1,224 people in hospital, including 201 in intensive care. Here's a guide to the numbers.
  • Quebec is considering gradually reopening schools and daycares before the end of the June. 
  • Quebec's College of Physicians is investigating practices at CHSLD Herron and the Montreal Geriatric Institute.
  • Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is looking at ways to restart her city's economy
  • Construction workers on residential projects are back on the job across Quebec.

Quebec marked a grim milestone Tuesday, as Premier François Legault revealed another 102 people have died due to COVID-19, bringing the province's total death toll to more than 1,000.

Legault said approximately 850 of the 1,041 deceased were residents of long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs, or other kinds of seniors' residences.

Legault said the majority of COVID-19 cases are in about 80 of the affected institutions.

It's increasingly apparent many long-term care homes have been crippled by inadequate planning and a shortage of protective gear, as well as understaffing.

Legault insists the staffing shortages are slowly being rectified.

"We continue the deployment of health workers in seniors' residences," he said.

"The situation is getting more and more under control."

The premier said his government continues to look at how to restart the economy and how to lift certain restrictions.

He said it's preparing a plan, based on recommendations from public health, to gradually reopen schools and daycares over the coming weeks and months.

"Of course, we still need some time to be sure that the pandemic is under control before reopening the economy and the schools," Legault said.

It is still possible that schools will be restarted in some form before the end of the current year. 

He ruled out, however, the possibility of opening them in the middle of summer.

Investigation launched

The professional orders representing doctors and nurses in the province announced Tuesday they are jointly investigating two Montreal facilities where dozens of seniors in care have died in the past few weeks. 

Quebec's physicians' order, the Collège des médecins (CMQ), and two separate orders for nurses and auxiliary nurses said they will look into practices at the CHSLD Herron in Dorval and the Montreal Geriatric Institute, where there have been dozens of deaths, and the treatment of residents as a result of staff shortages has garnered scrutiny.

"The College is very concerned about the situation of seniors living in long-term care residences. This is a particularly vulnerable segment of the population, and our role is to ensure that residents of all CHSLDs have access to the same quality care," Dr. Mauril Gaudreault, the president of the CMQ, said in a statement.

Last week, a CBC Montreal investigation revealed workers at the Herron were caring for patients without personal protective equipment for weeks, as the coronavirus spread within the institution. 

Nine Herron workers who spoke to CBC described not knowing which residents had tested positive for COVID-19 and being so short-staffed on some shifts that they weren't able to meet the basic needs of some 130 residents.

Volunteers at the Reseau d'entraide de Verdun get food ready for their weekly food donation in Montreal. Quebec's premier said Tuesday he is looking at gradually reopening the economy, even as the province marked its 1,000th death from COVID-19. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Another class action suit in the works

Of the province's long-term care homes, CHSLD Laurendeau in Montreal's Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 162 of its residents infected.

CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée in Laval is second on the list, with 158 cases — the equivalent of 82 per cent of the home's total number of beds. 

That publicly owned facility is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit application. The son of one of the 67 people who have died at the residence since the beginning of the pandemic submitted the request for the lawsuit through his lawyer on Monday.

It is pending the approval of a Quebec Superior Court justice before it can go ahead.

The request accuses both the long-term residence and the CISSS de Laval of failing to offer employees adequate personal protective equipment and neglecting to quarantine residents who were symptomatic. 

A separate request for a lawsuit has been filed against the CHLSD Herron.

With files from Verity Stevenson and Antoni Nerestant

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