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COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know this weekend

Hospitals in Montreal's east end will soon be going to a Level-5 alert, above Level-4 load-shedding, previously considered the highest alert level in the province’s plan to cope with COVID-19’s strain on the system.

Hospitals in Montreal's east end say they will be reducing more services soon

The Quebec government will be holding a briefing today about air quality ahead of the return to class. Elementary and high school students will be going back to school on Monday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
  • On Sunday, Quebec reported 3,300 people in hospital (an increase of 105 from the previous day), including 282 in intensive care (an increase of seven from the previous day).
  • The province reported 5,946 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 794,753 confirmed cases and 12,304 people have died.
  • On Saturday, the province also reported a total of 16,508,440 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered, including 107,597 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 32 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 health agency representing hospitals in Montreal's east end confirmed Saturday it will soon be reducing more services as their hospitals struggle to balance the care of COVID-19 patients alongside others. 

The CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal said it will be moving to a Level-5 alert, above Level-4 load-shedding, previously considered the highest alert level in Quebec's contingency plan to cope with COVID-19's strain on the health-care system.

"We currently have 184 of our beds occupied by COVlD patients," said Valérie Lafleur, a spokesperson with the health agency. "This represents 28 per cent of all our available beds that are currently occupied by COVlD patients. Once we reach 30 per cent, we will be going to Level 5." 

The regional health board for Montérégie-Est said it was able to free up 100 beds across three of its hospitals for COVID-19 patients after moving to a Level-4 alert, but that it is struggling to keep up with demand. Some 180 people are hospitalized with the virus in the region as of Saturday. 

The health agency covering the south central part of Montreal moved to a Level-4 alert on Friday.

Notre-Dame and Verdun hospitals will be reducing surgeries by more than 50 per cent, and could drop to 25 per cent of normal services, the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'île-de-Montréal said.

Emergency and oncology services will be preserved, the hospitals said, as will services for youth and those with intellectual disabilities. Endoscopy services will be slowed down.

Some nurses will also be reassigned from outpatient clinics to hospitals, and the number of non-urgent appointments will be reduced in family medicine, they added.

Classrooms don't need to close following outbreak

In a letter to parents Friday, the Lester B. Pearson School Board said under new provincial directives classrooms will no longer be forced to close if multiple students test positive for the virus once schools reopen Monday. 

Students will also no longer be required to isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive in their school community. Isolation will only be required if the infected person is someone who lives in their home.

If the test result is negative, and another taken at least 24 hours later is also negative, then the student will be permitted to return to school, the province confirmed in a statement to Radio-Canada Friday night. 

If the student tests positive they must isolate for at least five days. If they test negative after the fifth day and don't have a fever, they will then be allowed to return to school while wearing a mask as much as possible. 

The Quebec government also 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.

First Nations sees 1,414 active cases as of Friday

Indigenous communities in Quebec are seeing an unprecedented number of COVID-19 cases in this wave of the pandemic. 

The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission says there were a total of 1,414 active cases in 29 First Nations communities as of Friday — and that doesn't account for positive rapid test results people have taken at home. 

From Wednesday through Friday alone, 575 active cases were reported in the Indigenous communities the commission works with.

Dr. André Corriveau, public health adviser for the commission, says some communities saw their first cases ever, following the spread of the Omicron variant.

In northern Quebec, the Nunavik and James Bay regions have their own health boards. The Inuit territory of Nunavik last reported 39 new cases on Thursday, for a total of 349 active cases in the region.

On Friday, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay reported 355 active cases among the 10 Cree communities and seven people in hospital. 

Bertie Wapachee, head of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, says Omicron has hit the Cree Nation of Quebec particularly hard.

"It stunned us … shut down many things for us. The way it spread was like no other [wave], this one was very different."

Wapachee says COVID cases among health-care workers have caused staffing problems in his region, which only has one hospital in the community of Chisasibi. Cree people who have a severe infection requiring hospitalization have had to be sent to Val-d'Or or Montreal.

Appointments for 1st dose double in Quebec City

Appointments for first doses of the vaccine doubled this week in the Quebec City region.

The region usually sees about 300 appointments per day for those looking to get their first dose, but saw 564 appointments registered on Tuesday. By Wednesday, they had reached more than 600. 

The appointments also tripled among those aged 25 to 29.

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.

(CBC)

"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.

WATCH | Dr. Christopher Labos warns that hospitals remain fragile.

Ending the curfew has nothing to do with politics, popularity, or polls, Quebec's premier said Thursday

6 months ago
Duration 2:29
François Legault says ending Quebec's curfew on Monday has nothing to do with his government's waning popularity, while Health Minister Christian Dubé warns the province must reopen gradually and carefully.

Top COVID-19 stories

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

       
  • Fever. 
  •    
  • 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.
  •    
  • Headache.
  •    
  • Fatigue.
  •    
  • 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.

You can find information on COVID-19 in the province here and information on the situation in Montreal here

 

With files from La Presse Canadienne, Radio-Canada and Franca Mignacca

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