Quebec premier says all patients and staff to be tested at long-term care homes

Premier François Legault said Quebec now has 10,031 cases and 175 deaths attributable to COVID-19. With so many residents of long-term care homes infected, the premier said all workers and people living in those institutions will now be tested for the coronavirus.

As Quebec cases top 10,000, with 175 deaths, government promises more measures to help seniors' residences

People over the age of 70 make up the vast majority of those who are dying of COVID-19 in Quebec. The province is ramping up efforts to protect the elderly. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
  • The Quebec government is projecting between 1,200 and 9,000 people could die of COVID-19 by the end of April. Hospitalizations are expected to peak around April 18. 
  • Quebec has 10,031 cases and 175 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 632 people in hospital, including 181 in intensive care.
  • Police across the province now have the authority to hand out tickets of up to $1,000 to people who don't respect physical distancing.
  • Nurses are sounding the alarm about the conditions at a Laval long-term care home where more than 100 people have COVID-19.
  • Montreal has 4,775 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.

Premier François Legault says soon everyone in the province's long-term care homes (CHSLDs) — employees and residents — will be systematically tested for COVID-19.

The province is also continuing its efforts to redeploy more health-care workers, such as nurses and orderlies, to CHSLDs, where hundreds of cases of the virus have been confirmed.

The measures are an attempt to curb further spread of the coronavirus that is already ravaging elderly people in long-term care, who are disproportionately dying from COVID-19.

"We want to protect those who built the Quebec we have today," said Health Minister Danielle McCann.

Quebec now has 10,031 cases and 175 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 632 people in hospital, including 181 in intensive care.

Almost nine out of 10 people who have died are over the age of 70, and the majority of the victims lived in long-term care homes.

McCann said 450 doctors will also be sent to those institutions to help. Increasing the number of people working in the CHSLDs, she said, will allow for the creation of teams to work in one place, reducing the chance of the virus being spread from one unit to another by contaminated health-care workers. 

Priority will be given to long-term care homes with ongoing outbreaks, McCann said, but she said all homes will eventually have increased support. 

The province banned visits to CHSLDs and other seniors' homes early in the outbreak in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, but they have been hit hard anyway. 

Some health-care workers have been working in multiple residences, assigned to where they are most needed. 

At the CHSLD de Sainte-Dorothée in Laval, a nurse and an orderly continued to work after reporting they felt sick, according to a union representative.

The employees were told they wouldn't be tested because they didn't have all the symptoms of COVID-19, but they later tested positive.

That institution now has the highest number of infected patients and the highest number of deaths of any CHSLD in the province — 50 employees and 105 patients have tested positive, and 13 people have died.

Get used to physical distancing

Legault said now that the number of hospitalizations is stabilizing and the province has a firmer idea of when the number of cases will peak, the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.

But when it comes to physical-distancing measures, he warned that Quebecers are in it for the long haul — it will be months before they're lifted, he said.

And until that happens, the public must remain disciplined, he reiterated.

François Legault is warning Quebecers it will be a while yet before physical distancing rules will be lifted. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The premier would not confirm whether students will be at home for the rest of the school year, however, saying different scenarios are still being discussed.

Legault said he is hopeful businesses will be able to reopen in the coming weeks, but priority will be given to businesses where physical distancing can be maintained.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, compared the process to turning on a faucet — the idea will be to start returning to normal slowly and ensuring things can be done safely.

Police across the province are playing a major role in ensuring distancing rules are being respected, now that they have the power to hand out $1,000 tickets.

Montreal and Quebec provincial police doled out hundreds of fines over the weekend, and on Tuesday evening, Saguenay police officers handed out two $1,546 tickets — one for a house party in Jonquière, the other for a gathering at an apartment in Chicoutimi. 

Public health in Gaspé region releases data

More than half of the cases in the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine health region — 43 out of 75 — are linked to the outbreak at the Manoir du Havre, a private seniors' home in Maria, on the Gaspé Peninsula.

Public health officials in the region are now breaking down the number of cases by district. Yv Bonnier Viger, the regional public health director, said he had resisted doing so because some people have been tracking down patients and hassling them.

Here is the breakdown for the rest of the region:

  • Îles-de-la Madeleine: 7
  • Haute-Gaspésie: <5
  • Côte-de-Gaspé: <5
  • Rocher-Percé: 7
  • Bonaventure: <5
  • Avignon: 8

With files from CBC's Julia Page

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