COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know Friday
Some restrictions easing, others coming in as students prepare for class Monday
- On Friday, Quebec reported 3,085 people in hospital (an increase of 91 from the previous day), including 275 in intensive care (an increase of three).
- The province reported 7,382 new cases of COVID-19 and 68 deaths.
- Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 783,102 confirmed cases and 12,193 people have died.
- On Friday, the province also reported a total of 16,195,112 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered, including 108,768 in the last 24 hours.
- 90 per cent of the eligible population in the province (ages five and up) has received one dose of the vaccine, 82 per cent have received two doses, and 29 per cent have received three doses.
The new cases represent 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.
The Quebec government said CO2 readers will be coming to classrooms this coming week, to better assess the ventilation needs of schools.
Schools with elevated levels of CO2 in their classrooms will be able to request an air exchanger from the government. Officials said no request would be denied.
The opening of windows was also once again recommended, though officials said the temperature in classrooms shouldn't fall below 20 C.
As for N95 masks, officials are still not recommended them, saying there are concerns about whether or not they would be used correctly. The masks needed to be fitted to each person and can become uncomfortable after long hours of wear.
However, the government said the masks would be made available to those teaching at special needs schools, where students may not be capable of following other measures.
Dr. Yves Jalbert, the deputy director general of public health protection with the Health Ministry, said that most of the time, teachers are infecting students, not the other way around.
He added that transmission in schools is reflective of COVID-19's prevalence in the community, and that mask mandates, combined with vaccination, are still the best means of protection against COVID-19 in classrooms.
The government is anticipating a "very large number" of teacher absences after students return to class, and is suggesting schools be ready to quickly replace teachers by keeping a list of people to call in as reinforcements, which could include "parent volunteers."
2nd Montreal health agency bumps up to Level 4
The CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'île-de-Montréal, the health agency covering the south central part of the city, is moving to the the Level 4 load-shedding, meaning some services will be reduced to free up beds and staff to deal with the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. It's the second agency in Montreal at this stage.
It means Notre-Dame and Verdun hospitals will reduce surgeries by more than 50 per cent, and may drop to 25 per cent of normal services.
Emergency and oncology services will be preserved, the CIUSSS says, as will services for youth and those with intellectual disabilities. Endoscopy services will be slowed down.
Some nurses will be reassigned from outpatient clinics to hospitals, and the number of non-urgent appointments will be reduced in family medicine.
The CIUSSS has launched a call for volunteers who would like to lend a hand, through the Je Contribue platform. Level 4 makes it possible to postpone up to 80 per cent of surgeries and to postpone certain followups.
Some restrictions easing, others coming in
Legault also announced Thursday that some restrictions will be easing in the coming days, while bringing in other new measures to combat the Omicron wave of COVID-19.
The province's second overnight curfew will end on Monday. Stores in the province, ordered to close on Sundays for the past two weeks, will be allowed to reopen on Sundays as of next week.
The government has also announced that as of Jan. 24, customers will be required to show their vaccine passports to shop at big-box stores of 1,500 square metres or more, with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies, which are considered essential services.
WATCH | François Legault explains why he brought in, and then dropped, the curfew:
Students calling for remote learning options
Student leaders at Concordia University are calling on the administration to commit to remote learning accommodations that will be accessible to all students after the school announced classes will resume in person on Feb. 3.
Classes on campus were originally set to restart on Jan. 20, but the date was delayed again on Thursday.
The student leaders want exams, assignments and course materials to remain accessible online, saying many will drop out if they don't feel comfortable attending classes on campus.
They also want to see the implementation of N95 or KN95 masks on campus should classes resume, mandatory testing for those attending campus, and more flexibility around tuition refunds.
"Universities are facing the same uncertainties as most sectors in society right now. In that context, we have tried to give as much clarity as we could by setting a three-week notice for a return to campus while following governmental directives," said Vannina Maestracci, a spokesperson for the university.
"We've also met regularly with the Concordia Student Union throughout the pandemic, including before issuing our latest communication to our community yesterday."
New COVID-19 accommodation guidelines sent out this week to teaching staff at McGill University have also raised safety concerns in the community.
The internal document offers flexible grading schemes and the recording of classes as a few accommodations at professors' disposal, but also acknowledged that in some cases it might not be possible to find an "appropriate academic accommodation" for all students — meaning some may need to withdraw from courses or take a leave of absence if they have safety concerns.
Data shows peak could be coming soon
Hospitalizations in the greater Montreal area are expected to peak in the coming week, according to projections from the province's public health research institute.
INSPQ data published Thursday week shows hospitalizations and the number of COVID-19 related deaths will likely drop soon, depending on the length of patients' hospital stays and the lag time between reported infections and deaths.
"Given the very high community transmission, the situation remains fragile even if a slowdown in the number of cases and hospitalizations could occur soon," Marc Brisson, one of the researchers behind the projections, said.
Projections are based on different scenarios taking into account the severity of Omicron, the vaccination rate, the population's adherence to public health measures and the impact of resuming in-person classes.
Quebecers who got COVID-19 urged to get booster shots
Quebecers who have recently contracted COVID-19 will be able to get their third dose as soon as they are symptom-free, the government announced Wednesday — as long as it's been three months since their last dose.
The province said anyone who wishes to get a booster shot, including those who recently had COVID-19, should get one "as soon as possible" to have better protection against the Omicron variant.
The government announced last week that once the entire eligible population has had the opportunity to receive their booster dose, three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be required to use the province's vaccination passport system.
Currently, two doses are sufficient to be considered adequately vaccinated.
Meanwhile, experts say there's no critical timeline to receive the third dose post infection.
"A month is a reasonable time to wait, but if you go a little bit earlier, a little bit later, it won't make a large difference in the immune response," said McMaster University immunologist Dawn Bowdish.
Top COVID-19 stories
- Quebec faces calls for greater scientific independence after top doctor resigns
- COVID-19 is pushing Quebec hospitals to highest alert level
- Experts warn outbreaks in Quebec's long-term care homes could get worse before they improve
- Quebec's new restrictions have been met with mixed reactions
- Quebec sees record number of kids in hospital with COVID-19
- Here's how Quebec plans to keep some COVID-infected, exposed essential workers on the job
- What to do if you think you have the Omicron variant
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 La Presse Canadienne, Radio-Canada and Franca Mignacca