First COVID-19 death in Montreal brings Quebec total fatalities to 7

"Our children and grandchildren will remember how we won this battle. So let's make them proud," said Quebec Premier François Legault Wednesday, announcing that the total number of cases has risen to 1,339, with 78 people in hospital, including 35 in intensive care.

Total number of cases has risen to 1,339, with 78 people in hospital, including 35 in intensive care

Montreal reported the city's first COVID-19-related death on Wednesday as the city's public health authority scrambles to investigate every single new infection to determine its source. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
  • Quebec currently has 1,339 confirmed cases and seven deaths attributable to COVID-19; 78 people are in hospital, including 35 in intensive care.
  • Montreal has majority of cases: 603 positive, 40 in hospital and seven in intensive care.
  • Most Montreal patients travelled or were in contact with a traveller, though there are some community transmissions where public health investigators are unable to determine source.
  • Many stores in the province are now closed until April 13. Here is what is still open.

Quebec public health authorities say three people have died from COVID-19 in the province, bringing the total number of deaths to seven by Wednesday afternoon.

In his daily update, Premier François Legault said there are now 1,339 cases in the province, an increase of 326 overnight. A total of 78 people are in hospital, including 35 in intensive care.

In that daily briefing, Quebec health officials reported six deaths. However, within two hours of that announcement, Montreal's regional public health authority reported the island's first death — a senior citizen. That fatality will be included in the province tally on Thursday.

Quebec's confirmed cases include paramedics and health care personnel, seniors and one homeless man in Montreal. 

Adopting wartime language, Legault asked Quebecers to keep up efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

"Every action we take will bring us closer to victory. Our children and grandchildren will remember how we won this battle. So let's make them proud," he said.

The premier also addressed snowbirds and others returning to Quebec, telling them in no uncertain terms that they must stay inside for 14 days. Earlier in the day, the federal government announced that as of midnight, the majority of travellers returning to Canada will have to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's director of public health, said the increase in confirmed cases was what officials expected to see. 

Quebec has speeded up testing and the turnaround time for getting test results. To date, 26,634 people have tested negative for COVID-19.

Arruda said testing many people who suspect they may have come into contact with the novel coronavirus gives epidemiologists more data. It allows them to zero in more quickly, for example, on what age groups they should be focusing their concern on.

He said regional public health workers are telephoning people at home in a concerted effort to trace people who are sick or may have been exposed to the virus.

Arruda asked that people who receive such a call be honest about whether they have travelled or have come into contact with someone who has.

"By hiding that information, you're preventing doctors and our guardian angels from being able to protect themselves. By not collaborating, you are preventing us from doing an investigation that allows us to help people," he said.

Montreal loses first patient to COVID-19

Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of public health for the Montreal region, said there are 603 cases confirmed in the city — accounting for roughly 45 per cent of Quebec's total known cases.

In Montreal, there are 40 patients in hospital, including seven in intensive care, and one patient has died.

Some 42 per cent of Montreal island's patients are located in the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal sector, which includes areas such as Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Plateau-Mont-Royal and Côte Saint-Luc. Drouin said at this point, it is not clear why there is such a heavy concentration of cases in those parts of the city.

A police officer oversees the COVID-19 walk-in testing clinic at the Place des Festivals in Montreal. Over a thousand cases of the virus have been confirmed in Quebec. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

She said a total of 31 health care workers on the island of Montreal have tested positive, but she was unable to provide details about how they contracted the virus.

Radio-Canada has learned there are now COVID-19 cases at three long-term care homes in Montreal. At the CHSLD Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci on Gouin Boulevard, seven residents have tested positive, as have two employees.

The vast majority of cases can be traced back to someone who has travelled or has been in contact with a traveller, said Drouin, although in some case, investigators have been unable to determine the source.

Investigating each case is a crucial part of Montreal public health's effort to contain the spread, Drouin said.

"We have to identify the source. We have to identify if there is an outbreak and to see if we have to put an intervention in specific places or in specific groups."

Montreal police have declared a state of emergency. Earlier this week, police forces across the province were asked to enforce a ban on gatherings of two or more people. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

With some 9,000 travellers arriving at the Montreal airport on Tuesday and 4,000 more on Wednesday, Drouin insisted all new arrivals must follow the self-isolation requirements, in order to prevent any further spread of the virus as "we do not have the luxury to have more cases in Montreal."

Cases in Kahnawake, Sherbrooke seniors' residence

Five cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, including a person working at the community hospital, the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre announced Tuesday. 

The hospital centre said it has not identified the source of the virus, which is a sign of community transmission.

At the Résidences Soleil Manoir, a private seniors' residence in Sherbrooke, 20 people have tested positive for the virus since Sunday, and 11 have been hospitalized. Five employees are in self-isolation as a precautionary measure, and none have tested positive.

The remaining residents have been told to stay in their rooms until further notice to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Sick and homeless to be housed in hotel

Homeless Montrealers who present COVID-19 symptoms will be accompanied to testing centres and put up in a hotel while awaiting results, as a temporary measure until the old Royal Victoria Hospital isolation unit is ready to be used.

This stop-gap measure has been put in place after a homeless man who has tested positive for COVID-19 turned up at Montreal's Old Brewery Mission Monday seeking food.

Montreal streets are quiet these days as many respect the nationwide stay-at-home order, but about 3,000 of the city's residents don't have a home to stay in. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The man in question is a client of the Old Brewery Mission in downtown Montreal, although he did not enter the shelter after showing symptoms.

Paramedics in self-isolation

In the health care system itself, 60 paramedics with Urgences-santé — which serves the regions of Laval and Montreal — have gone into self-isolation. 

This comes after two paramedics in the Lanaudière region tested positive, sending 18 first responders into isolation. Two Montreal firefighters were also confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, forcing another 18 of their colleagues into isolation.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said with non-essential public services shut down, the city has cut jobs for 2,000 seasonal, part-time and full-time staff members. The city still employs around 5,000 people.

Quebec's ferry service, the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ), is reducing its service. Changes have been posted on its website.

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