COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know Wednesday
Quebec drops mandatory vaccination for most health workers
- Quebec reported 525 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and eight new deaths.
- Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 427,472 confirmed cases and 11,510 people have died.
- There are 248 people in hospital (a decrease of two), including 70 in intensive care (a decrease of one).
- The province has administered 13,271,874 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 11,058 in the past 24 hours.
- 90 per cent of the eligible population in the province (age 12 and up) has received one dose of vaccine, and 87 per cent has received two doses.
Note: Quebec's Health Ministry does not publish the number of vaccines administered on weekends and public holidays.
Quebec has abandoned its plan to make the vaccine against COVID-19 mandatory for all employees in the health network, the health minister announced at a news conference Wednesday.
Instead, only new employees in the health-care system will be required to be fully vaccinated, Health Minister Christian Dubé said. Those who refuse will need to show their employer a negative test result three times per week to avoid being suspensed without pay.
Unvaccinated employees will remain ineligible for salary bonuses.
Quebec pushed back the deadline for health-care workers to be fully vaccinated by a month, after weeks of insisting the province would be able to take a hard line and suspend staff — and that health-care facilities would be able to manage without rolling back services.
At the time of the original deadline, Oct. 15, about 22,000 were not fully vaccinated. Dubé had said he feared a staffing crisis if that many workers were suspended without pay as promised.
According to Dubé, around 14,000 health-care workers are still not adequately vaccinated — including 5,000 who are likely to come into direct contact with patients.
Vaccines for kids aged 5-11
There's no hint as to when Health Canada will approve a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, but Quebec already says it plans to have vaccines available to this age group soon.
Daniel Paré, head of the province's vaccination campaign, said at a Tuesday press conference his goal is to have Quebecers in this age group vaccinated with their first dose by Christmas.
U.S. regulators cleared the use of the Pfizer vaccine for kids on Friday, but a corresponding decision from Canadian regulators will not come before the middle or end of November, a senior official said Friday.
But Paré said health officials have been in talks with school boards and service centres to get everything lined up and ready to go when approval comes.
"As soon as we receive confirmation from Health Canada...and accreditation from our [immunization committee]...we should be able to start the vaccination, if the vaccines are there."
The province's public health institute says about 90.6 per cent of residents aged 12 and over have received at least one vaccine dose and 87.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Monitor reopening plan, says doctor
The province is bringing back dancing and karaoke in bars as of Nov. 15 after months of restrictions due to some super-spreader events, like one in Quebec City.
The change is happening just two weeks after restaurants and bars started allowing full capacity.
Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist and epidemiologist in Montreal, says while a lot is reopening at once, it can still be done safely. But he says that could change.
"The key is going to be to monitor the situation and if we see an uptick of cases over the course of the winter, we might need to shut things back down again and that is a possibility because while things may be good now, it may not be good six months from now."
Face coverings, including for those singing karaoke, will still be required.
Quebec is loosening a number of other wide-ranging COVID-19 health restrictions as of that date because the "epidemiological situation is relatively under control," Health Minister Christian Dubé said Tuesday.
Workplaces will no longer have to prioritize working from home, though they should still allow it, he said. Gyms will also no longer have to require distancing and face masks during high intensity workouts.
High school students will only need to wear masks while moving around on school grounds.
Novavax seeks Health Canada approval
Novavax's vaccine, which could be produced in Montreal, has completed a submission to Health Canada for authorization of its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
But it's not yet clear how Novavax's shot would be administered in Canada, where 84 per cent of those 12 and over have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The federal government struck a deal with Novavax, as it did with several other companies early in the pandemic, with Canada agreeing early this year to purchase 52 million doses.
It was announced that Novavax would produce its own COVID-19 vaccine at the National Research Council site in Montreal, and in mid-October the NRC said in a statement that "the work with Novavax is proceeding as planned."
Health-care workers in Quebec City region suspended
Five health-care workers in the Quebec City region who are not adequately vaccinated have been suspended because they refused to be tested for COVID-19.
Although the vaccination mandate is not yet in place, health-care staff who are in close proximity to patients and have yet to get their required doses have to undergo three tests per week.
According to a spokesperson with the regional health authority, the workers were given several reminders of their obligations prior to being suspended.
There are less than two weeks remaining before the deadline for health-care workers to get vaccinated.
Originally, workers had until until Oct. 15 to get adequately vaccinated. The Quebec government extended the deadline until Nov. 15 because it feared a staffing crisis in health-care facilities.
Top COVID-19 stories
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- Take a look inside: How a Montreal hospital deals with ongoing staffing shortages
- U.S. confirms it will accept Canadian travellers with mixed vaccines
- Quebec postpones vaccination mandate for health-care workers to Nov. 15
- These Quebec nurses are willing to sacrifice their careers to avoid getting COVID-19 shots
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 Sharon Yonan-Renold, the Canadian Press