COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know Thursday
For the first time, the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in Canadian wildlife
- Quebec reported 1,146 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and two new deaths.
- Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 450,513 confirmed cases and 11,583 people have died.
- There are 227 people in hospital (a decrease of 12), including 53 in intensive care (an increase of one).
- The province has administered 13,665,978 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 26,563 doses in the last 24 hours.
- 85 per cent of the eligible population in the province (age five and up) has received one dose of vaccine, and 81 per cent has received two doses.
Note: Quebec's vaccination rate has been adjusted to include five- to 11-year-olds, causing the overall percentage to drop. Vaccinations for the group began last week.
Quebec's Health Ministry does not publish the number of vaccines administered on weekends and public holidays.
Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are expected to rise across the province, a government health-care research institute said Thursday.
The number of cases has nearly doubled over the past month, which could correspond to a 30 per cent increase in hospitalizations, the institute, known by its French acronym INESSS, said in a projections report released Thursday.
Those aged 70 and over represent 35 per cent of all hospitalizations in the province, though the number of cases in intensive care has remained stable.
While the increase in cases can be seen across all age groups, young people aged 12 to 17 have been hit the hardest, with cases in that age group increasing by 53 per cent.
The current projections do not account for the omicron variant. The institute said the effect of omicron will be incorporated "when reliable estimates of its transmissibility, severity and [vaccine efficacy] are known."
Rapid tests for daycare parents
Parents who have children in Quebec's public or subsidized daycare network will begin to receive kits that will allow them to test their little ones for COVID.
If a child tests positive, the family must go to a designated screening centre to confirm the results with a laboratory test.
Virus detected in deer east of Montreal
For the first time, the virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in wildlife in Canada.
Three white-tailed deer in Quebec's Estrie region were found to be carrying SARS-CoV-2. The deer the samples were taken from appeared to be healthy and showed no signs of the disease.
Catherine Soos, a specialist in wildlife health with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the deer may be able to carry the virus without showing symptoms, much like how some humans can carry the virus and remain asymptomatic.
This is the first time the virus has been found in wild animals in Canada, though globally it has already infected various species that are domesticated or kept in captivity, including farmed mink, cats and dogs, and animals in zoos such as tigers, gorillas, cougars and otters.
Legault 'optimistic' about holidays, despite cases rising
Despite the province reporting 1,196 new coronavirus infections, the highest single-day total in Quebec since April, Premier François Legault said he's optimistic about the holiday season.
Health Minister Christian Dubé mentioned the increase in cases while fielding questions from reporters about Premier François Legault's recent comments about holiday gatherings.
The premier said he hopes indoor gathering limits can be increased from 10 to 20 or 25 in time for the holidays.
Although he couched his comments by saying he would wait to see what public health authorities recommend, Legault was criticized by opposition party members, who say his statements will confuse Quebecers and make it harder for people to respect the rules.
During a news conference on Wednesday morning, Dubé said the premier was expressing what most Quebecers are thinking, but he insisted the government's main focus is trying to limit the spread of the virus, not holiday gatherings.
"I want us to get to Christmas, as low as possible with our cases," Dubé said. He also pointed out that hundreds of thousands of vaccine-eligible Quebecers still haven't got their shots, even if the province's vaccination rate remains high.
"We're not talking about the five- to 11-year-olds or the zero- to five-year-olds. There are 650,000 Quebecers who refuse to get vaccinated and we're at the start of a new variant, and we're at the start of winter," Dubé said.
Earlier this week, Dubé urged Quebecers to seriously reconsider any plans to travel this holiday season, in light of the omicron COVID-19 variant.
The province's first known case of the new strain was confirmed on Monday.
WATCH | Federal Health minister Jean-Yves Duclos on banning travellers from certain countries
Montreal public health approach to omicron variant
Dr. Mylène Drouin said Montreal public health would adopt a "suppressive approach" to tackling the variant.
"We will be more aggressive," Drouin said. "We will isolate contacts even though they are doubly vaccinated, and we will do so until we have more information about this variant."
Currently, 66 people are hospitalized, including 31 in intensive care because of COVID-19 infections. Five hundred hospital beds in Montreal are available for more patients that may need to be hospitalized.
Drouin also said it was too early to envision lifting restrictions for holiday gatherings.
Quebec offers accelerated training for health-care jobs
During the news conference on Wednesday, Dubé was joined by the province's education minister, Jean-François Roberge.
The ministers unveiled a plan to recruit more licensed practical nurses (LPN) and administrative assistants into the health-care system to ease the burden on nurses.
Next month, the province will launch two accelerated school programs.
The province is looking to train 2,000 LPNs. That program will be taught over 14 months, for a total of about 1,800 hours of class time, with the goal of having trainees ready to work by March 2023. Each student will have access to a bursary of $20,000.
For administrative assistants, the program will be taught for over two months, meaning 240 hours of class time.
The province wants to recruit 3,500 students for that program, and will offer bursaries of $4,000 for each of them. The province is hoping to have them ready to work by next summer.
In total, the bursaries for both programs represent an investment of $62 million for the province.
In September, the province began offering bonuses of up to $18,000 to attract more nurses to the public health system and make up for staffing shortages that have worsened during the pandemic.
7 in isolation over omicron fears in Eastern Townships
Eastern Townships Public Health Director Dr. Alain Poirier is warning residents to avoid large gatherings in response to the omicron variant of COVID-19 and a surge in cases in the region.
The local health authority says seven residents are currently in isolation after recently travelling to one of the southern African countries deemed at risk for the omicron variant, and tests are being carried out to see if they have contracted it.
There were 425 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the region in the past three days. Sherbrooke was particularly affected, with 143 new cases were confirmed.
"In five weeks, we went from 35 cases on average, and last week, we had reached 125 cases on average," said Dr. Poirier. Hospitalizations in the region have also increased, mainly in intensive care.
Dr. Poirier says public health is now struggling to meet the demand for screening, and is therefore asking the public to work together to reduce the spread.
"We really have to contain the virus. It is in the hands of all of us, through isolation if we have travelled and by vaccination," he said.
Top COVID-19 stories
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- Vaccines won't be mandatory for teachers, school staff as Quebec COVID-19 situation improves
- Doctor convinced vaccine hesitant patient attendant to get her shot with patience and respect
- Take a look inside: How a Montreal hospital deals with ongoing staffing shortages
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- 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.
- 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.
With files from The Canadian Press and Radio-Canada