La santé

COVID live updates: New hospitalizations could double within two weeks, Quebec projections show – Montreal Gazette

Cases surge as Quebec reports 8 deaths, 47 more hospitalizations. The positivity rate for lab-confirmed infections is also rising.

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Updated throughout the day on Wednesday, March 30. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Highly contagious BA.2 subvariant now accounts for 65% of Quebec cases, INSPQ says
  • U.S. scraps COVID warning for cruise travel after two years
  • Canada faces rising COVID wave as restrictions ease
  • Biden gets second booster shot, pushes for more COVID funding
  • Quebec starts administering 4th vaccine doses in CHSLDs
  • Clic Santé glitch appears to have been fixed
  • New hospitalizations could double within two weeks, Quebec projections show
  • Infections are rising again in New York City, mostly among those 25 to 34
  • Cases surge as Quebec reports 8 deaths, 47 more hospitalizations
  • Quebec’s deputy premier tests positive, bringing to 9 the number of MNAs sidelined
  • ‘People have let their guard down’ as new surge begins in Quebec
  • Several Quebec bars close due to outbreaks: report
  • Opinion: Health reform places Quebecers between skepticism and necessity
  • COVID spreading fast in Gaspé region, which was spared by last wave
  • ‘We demand an explanation!’ Shanghai residents vent COVID lockdown irritation
  • Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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4:20 p.m.

Thanks for reading

I’ll be back tomorrow with another live blog.

In the meantime, you can follow all our coverage via the coronavirus page.

My previous COVID-19 live blogs are available here.


3:55 p.m.

Highly contagious BA.2 subvariant now accounts for 65% of Quebec cases, INSPQ says

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3:50 p.m.

U.S. scraps COVID warning for cruise travel after two years

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday removed its COVID-19 notice against cruise travel, around two years after introducing a warning scale showing the level of coronavirus transmission risk on cruise ships.

Read our full story.


3:50 p.m.

Canada faces rising COVID wave as restrictions ease

Much of Canada is facing a fresh COVID-19 wave just as authorities ease measures meant to curb the spread of the virus, emboldened by a brief drop in cases and relatively high vaccination rates.

Read our full story.


3:50 p.m.

WHO lays out plan to emerge from emergency phase of pandemic

The World Health Organization on Wednesday released an updated plan for COVID-19, laying out key strategies that, if implemented in 2022, would allow the world to end the emergency phase of the pandemic.

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Read our full story.


3:15 p.m.

Biden gets second booster shot, pushes for more COVID funding

From the Reuters news agency:

U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve for a second COVID-19 booster shot on Wednesday as his administration rolled out efforts to help Americans live with the coronavirus, including a new website and a renewed push for vaccinations and funding.

“If we fail to invest, we leave ourselves vulnerable if another wave hits,” Biden said in remarks at the White House to launch COVID.gov, a clearinghouse of information aimed at helping people manage the virus as they seek a return to normalcy.

On Tuesday, U.S. health officials authorized a second booster shot for Americans age 50 and older and those who are immunocompromised, two years after the start of the pandemic.

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Biden, 79, received his fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A second booster of Moderna’s shot also was authorized.

Several drugstore chains, including CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance, said they would start offering second booster doses.

Nearly 982,000 people in the United States have died from COVID since early 2020 over several waves of the disease, according to a Reuters analysis of local data.

Although vaccines and increasingly available therapies for COVID-19 have reduced severe illness and deaths, public health officials are monitoring BA.2, an Omicron subvariant that now accounts for more than half of all U.S. cases.

U.S. officials have said they do not expect another major surge, but noted COVID cases could rise from BA.2 or a subsequent variant, reflecting the administration’s position that the country must learn to live with and adapt to some level of this coronavirus.

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2:45 p.m.

Quebec starts administering 4th vaccine doses in CHSLDs

Quebec says it has started providing fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses (also referred to as second boosters) to people who live in long-term care homes (CHSLDs) and other congregate living settings.

The vaccination campaign began yesterday.

“Given the current context of the pandemic and the increase in transmission caused by the presence of the BA.2 (Omicron subvariant), this booster dose is offered in order to provide additional protection to the most vulnerable people,” the Health Department said.

“All living environments are affected by this additional vaccination, including CHSLDs, intermediate and family-type resources (RI-RTF) and private seniors’ residences (RPA).

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“Mobile teams will travel to these environments. No action is necessary on the part of the people or their relatives to make an appointment.”

Quebec residents who are 80 and older, as well as immunocompromised people, can make an appointment for the new booster dose via the Clic Santé booking site, or go to walk-in clinics.


2:15 p.m.

Clic Santé glitch appears to have been fixed

More than 24 hours later, the Health Department still hasn’t responded to my questions about glitches on Clic Santé for some Quebecers trying to book fourth-dose shots (also referred to as second boosters).

However, the reader who sparked the question says she was eventually able to book an appointment for her elderly mother, who lives in Côte-St-Luc, at the nearby Décarie Square vaccination clinic.

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When she first tried yesterday – the first day this age group was eligible – Clic Santé said the closest appointment was 250 kilometres away. (see item timestamped 3 p.m. in yesterday’s live blog).

This morning, she was able to book it at Décarie Square.

A spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Ile-de-Montréal regional health authority yesterday said “many” appointments should have been available at the clinic. He blamed the problem on “technical issues with Clic Santé” and referred questions to the Health Department.

Walk-in appointments are also available.

If you have successfully booked a fourth-dose shot his week, or have been unable to, let me know: ariga@postmedia.com


1:30 p.m.

New hospitalizations could double within two weeks, Quebec projections show

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Quebec could see 200 new daily hospitalizations of COVID-positive patients within two weeks, according to projections published today by the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS).

The INESSS said the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units is also expected to increase in the coming weeks, though it did not provide a figure.

Over the past seven days, the province’s hospitals have admitted an average of just over 100 new COVID-positive patients daily.

The Quebec government health-care research institute said that for the first time since the peak of the fifth wave in mid-January, the number of hospitalizations increased last week, compared to the previous week.

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“The increase is observed in all age groups and in all regions,” the institute said in a press release.

“Although there has been a slight increase in the number of people requiring a stay in intensive care, this number remains relatively low.”


11:50 a.m.

Cases are rising again in New York City, mostly among those 25 to 34

From the Bloomberg news agency:

New York City COVID-19 cases are rising again, particularly among people aged 25 to 34 years, according to city officials. The surge appears to be concentrated in Manhattan, the most vaccinated borough.

In an unusual move, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene posted a warning on Twitter on Wednesday, saying they “strongly recommend” New Yorkers mask-up indoors and get booster shots.

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The warning came in contrast to the city’s COVID alert system, which identifies the COVID alert level as ‘low risk.’

The case surge comes as the BA.2 variant becomes more prominent nationwide, and weeks after Mayor Eric Adams lifted vaccine requirements to visit most public indoor locations and mask mandates in schools. Offices across the city have also called for workers to return in-person, alongside a push for normalcy by city officials. Some companies have removed their mask mandates as well.

The city says it will re-consider implementing mask and vaccine requirements if the risk changes from low to medium.


11:30 a.m.

Chart: Current situation vs. one year ago


11:30 a.m.

Charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:30 a.m.

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Charts: Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:05 a.m.

Cases surge as Quebec reports 8 deaths, 47 more hospitalizations

Quebec has recorded 3,067 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

The case tally only includes people who received PCR tests at government screening clinics. It does not accurately reflect the number of cases since it does not include the results of home rapid tests.

Today’s total is 41 per cent higher than yesterday’s – and the highest one-day case count since Feb. 9.

The positivity rate for lab-confirmed tests continues to rise.

The latest update shows a rate of 17.1 per cent.

Last week, the daily average positivity rate was 13.2 per cent. A week before that, it was 10.4 per cent.

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In addition, eight new deaths were reported, bringing the cumulative total to 14,353.

Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:

  • Montreal Island: 511 cases, zero deaths.
  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 47, for total of 1,200 (148 entered hospital, 101 discharged).
  • Net decrease in intensive care patients: 3, for total of 60 (8 entered ICUs, 11 discharged).
  • 20,475 PCR tests conducted Monday.
  • 8,849 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.

10:45 a.m.

Rising cases ‘very concerning,’ Ottawa public health says

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10:20 a.m.

Quebec’s deputy premier tests positive, bringing to 9 the number of MNAs sidelined

Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault announced Wednesday she has tested positive for COVID-19.

That means nine MNAs are currently sidelined by the virus – or just over seven per cent of the provincial legislature.

Read our full story, by Philip Authier in Quebec City.

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10:15 a.m.

‘People have let their guard down’ as new surge begins in Quebec

Though it remains difficult to have a clear picture of transmission in Quebec, public health experts said Tuesday it’s apparent COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise in the province.

And though the increase was to be expected as Quebec loosened measures and a more contagious sub-variant took hold, they say the surge should not be taken lightly and won’t be without consequences.

Read our full story, by Jesse Feith.


10:10 a.m.

Several Quebec bars close due to outbreaks: report

Weeks after reopening at full capacity, several bars across Quebec have temporarily closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks, the Journal de Montréal is reporting.

On March 12, Quebec lifted bar capacity limits, allowing dancing and karaoke to resume.

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10 a.m.

Opinion: Health reform places Quebecers between skepticism and necessity

“The last two years of dealing with the pandemic have widened every crack in health care and left the system badly broken. There’s nothing left to do but pick up the pieces and try to rebuild the crumbling foundations. It must be a top priority for whichever party forms the next government after this fall’s election, even if opposition parties panned the Coalition Avenir Québec’s health reform plan as an electoral ploy.”

Read the latest column by Allison Hanes.


9:50 a.m.

COVID spreading fast in Quebec’s Gaspé region, which was spared by last wave

From The Canadian Press:

The region consisting of Quebec’s Gaspé peninsula and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine has the highest COVID-19 transmission rate in the province, and health officials say that’s because the areas were relatively spared by last winter’s Omicron wave.

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Transmission is highest in the touristic areas of Rocher-Percé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, which have rates higher 1,300 cases per 100,000 people. Montreal, by contrast, which was hit hard by the Omicron wave in December and January, has about 169.5 active cases per 100,000 people.

Reported cases have almost tripled in the region in one month, according to the province’s public health institute. Local public health director Dr. Yv Bonnier-Viger says the situation in Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine can be explained by the fact the Omicron mutation of the novel coronavirus is relatively new to the region.

“We know the BA.2 is in Quebec now,” he said, referring to the subvariant of Omicron, “so I think we provided a fertile ground for the variant.”

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And while the transmission rate is high, Bonnier-Viger said it represents a fraction of the reality. “We only test 10 per cent of people with PCR tests right now.”

He said he supports the decision to lift many restrictions, including the vaccine passport system, which ended in mid-March. But he said now is not the time to remove the mask mandate — the last major public health order remaining in the province. Quebec health officials have said mandatory masking will end mid-April at the latest, except on public transportation.

“It’s been proven to be an effective measure,” Bonnier-Viger said of masking. “We’ll see where we’ll be in mid-April – but if that was next week, for sure we should not remove it.”

The situation is worrying but under control, he said, as COVID-19-related hospitalizations remain low. There were 17 COVID-19 patients in the region’s hospitals on Tuesday, an increase of two in the last 24 hours.

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9:45 a.m.

As restrictions ease, Air Canada to increase full-year capacity

Air Canada said on Wednesday it plans to increase its capacity for full-year 2022, helped by a rebound in travel demand as COVID-related restrictions ease around the world.

Read our full story.


9:45 a.m.

Manulife to open all Canada offices for staffers from April 25

Manulife Financial, Canada’s biggest life insurer, said on Tuesday that employees can return to its offices across Canada from April 25 regardless of vaccination status, amid a fall in COVID-19 infections.

Read our full story.


9:45 a.m.

‘We demand an explanation!’ Shanghai residents vent COVID lockdown irritation

People pass food to residents over the barriers of an area under lockdown, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Shanghai, China.
People pass food to residents over the barriers of an area under lockdown, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Shanghai, China. Photo by ALY SONG /REUTERS

Frustrated and locked down, residents of Shanghai have taken to social media to vent, questioning the practicality of persisting with China’s zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 in its most populous city.

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Read our full story.


9:45 a.m.

COVID cases in Asia surpass 100 million

Coronavirus infections in Asia passed 100 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, as the region records a resurgence in cases, dominated by the BA.2 Omicron sub-variant.

Read our full story.


9:15 a.m.

Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing

Vaccinations

Testing


8:30 a.m.

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ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


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