COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know Friday
NACI recommends Canadians 18+ get booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine
- Quebec reported 1,355 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and two new deaths.
- Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 451,868 confirmed cases and 11,585 people have died.
- There are 230 people in hospital (an increase of three), including 57 in intensive care (an increase of four).
- The province has administered 13,695,097 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 27,893 doses in the last 24 hours.
- 86 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.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is now strongly recommending a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Canadians 50 and older as well as other vulnerable groups like health-care workers, Indigenous peoples, those living in congregate care settings and all those who only received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
According to new recommendations released by NACI Friday, the committee is also now recommending the younger cohort — Canadians aged 18 to 49 — get a third mRNA shot at least six months after they got their second.
The new guidance comes after some provinces moved to offer boosters. Starting this month, Ontario will make a third dose available to all residents aged 50 and older. In Alberta, anyone above the age of 18 will be eligible.
The Quebec government had said it has no plans to offer a third dose to those under the age of 70.
"If they change their mind, I'll change the way we proceed," Quebec Premier François Legault said. "But right now, we say: it's necessary only for people over 70 years old."
Decision on 3rd vaccine dose next week
Quebec will wait on advice from its public health director before expanding access to COVID-19 booster vaccines, Health Minister Christian Dubé said Friday.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Dubé said he expected a decision on boosters from public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda next week.
"He has made some very good calls during those tough decisions,'' Dubé said, adding that Quebec's vaccination program has broken with federal guidelines in the past, including when it chose a longer interval between first and second doses than was recommended by vaccine manufacturers and Ottawa.
Rapid tests for daycare parents
Parents who have children in Quebec's public or subsidized daycare network will soon be able to test their children for COVID-19 at home.
Families will start receiving the rapid home tests through their daycares on Monday. The hope is to prevent outbreaks by allowing parents to test children with symptoms at home.
If a child tests positive, the family must go to a designated screening centre to confirm the results with a laboratory test.
In all, 1.5 million tests are expected to be distributed across the province.
Hospitalizations expected to rise in coming weeks
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."
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.
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- 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