What you need to know about COVID-19 in Quebec on Friday
Schools could reopen in May, premier says, citing latest numbers as evidence pandemic is stabilizing
- Quebec has 11,677 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A total of 241 Quebecers have died. There are 733 people in hospital, including 186 in intensive care.
- Nearly half of all deaths, 106 in all, have occurred in long-term care homes (CHSLDs). Nurses are sounding the alarm about the conditions at a Laval CHSLD, where more than 100 people are infected.
- Montreal has 5,262 cases of COVID-19 and the region's public health authority says the peak should come within days, about a week sooner than in the rest of the province.
Quebec's schools could still reopen in early May, Premier François Legault said Friday, citing the latest numbers on the coronavirus pandemic as further evidence the first wave is stabilizing.
"When Quebec is united as one, nothing can get in our way," he said, in perhaps the most positive remarks since his daily press conferences on the pandemic began.
"We Quebecers know one thing: In the heart of winter, we still know that spring will follow. We know better days are coming."
The number of people being treated in intensive care for COVID-19 dropped to 186 from 196. The number of deaths, however, climbed by 25, to a total of 241.
Total cases hit 11,677, an increase of 745, a number that also has been levelling off. The improvement in recent days means the government is "not excluding the possibility" of reopening schools in some capacity in early May, Legault said.
"We are reaching the top part of this wave," he said.
"The increases are stabilizing. This wave is not as high as elsewhere and not even as high as we had anticipated."
As the rise in cases plateaus, Legault said it is no longer necessary to return elderly COVID-19 patients to their CHSLDs — a measure that was intended to ensure there were enough beds in the hospitals when cases were rising quickly.
Legault said plans remain in place to gradually restart the economy in the coming weeks. However, public health authorities are still asking people celebrating Easter and Passover this weekend to stay home, and to only celebrate in-person with those they live with.
Here is a list of what is open and what is closed, if you do need to go out.
Long-term care homes at heart of crisis
Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said Friday screening for COVID-19 is increasing in long-term care facilities across the province as hundreds of doctors and nurses are being called in to help.
"We will make no concessions," she said at a news conference.
Roughly half of Quebec's deaths linked to the virus have been in these facilities. COVID-19 is especially dangerous for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
About 450 extra doctors are ready to support residents and staff in CHSLDs and other long-term residences by phone, video or in person, McCann said. She said 500 retired nurses have re-registered with their order and are also returning to work to offer support.
Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors, said medical specialists are being brought together to oversee the relief efforts. She said much as already been done to save lives in long-term homes across the province.
"As we know, however, we have to do more," she said. "The pandemic affects the areas that elderly live more strongly."
The province is moving more personal protective equipment to the facilities and will now test everyone living and working there.
Replacement staff are also on their way, including to four hard-hit facilities in Montreal's west end.
Info-Santé workers worried
The union representing health-care workers at the Info-Santé call centre in Montreal says there have been two cases of COVID-19 at the centre, and some employees say more should be done to protect them.
"We are separated by cubicles, but above it's open air," said one nurse who spoke with Radio-Canada on the condition they not be publicly identified.
They said the call centre is full of people working to answer the flood of calls about the virus, and those with symptoms come to work wearing masks.
"If the Montreal 811 line reduces or closes services, the rest of the health network will be clogged," said another employee.