Updated throughout the day on Wednesday, May 4. Questions/comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Quebec offers fourth vaccine dose to people 18-59
- Several reporters catch COVID after White House Correspondents’ Dinner
- Videos: Highlights of today’s Quebec pandemic update
- Beijing steps up COVID curbs as virus spreads in China
- 62% of Quebecers will continue to wear masks after the mandate is dropped, survey suggests
- As mask mandate nears end, Dubé urges Quebecers to respect those who continue to wear them
- Quebec will drop mandatory masks May 14 but some should keep wearing them, Boileau says
- Province reports 30 new deaths as hospitalizations drop by 19
- Moderna expects COVID to follow seasonal pattern requiring fall booster shots
- Quebecers’ life expectancy surpasses pre-pandemic levels, statistics show
- Severe COVID may cost survivors 10 IQ points, study finds
- ‘It’s completely illogical’: Quebec dentists decry lack of access to PCR tests
- Omicron subvariant BA.2 more transmissible but not more virulent: Quebec report
- Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
- Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter
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My previous COVID-19 live blogs are available here.
Quebec offers fourth vaccine dose to people 18-59
Via Twitter this afternoon, Quebec’s Health Department announced that all adults can now book an appointment for a fourth vaccine dose (also referred to as a second booster) via Clic Santé.
These shots were already available for Quebecers 60 and older, as well as people who are immunocompromised.
“Second booster dose for 18-59-year-olds: it’s now possible to make an appointment on Clic Santé,” the Health Department said via Twitter.
“There is no Comité sur l’immunisation du Québec recommendation for this age group (with exceptions) but it is possible to administer it to those who wish to receive it. There are no contraindications.”
Quebec says people must wait three months between their third and fourth doses.
Several reporters catch COVID after White House Correspondents’ Dinner
A number of reporters from CNN, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, Politico, and other news organizations have tested positive for COVID-19 since the White House Correspondents’ Dinner took place on April 30, the president of the correspondents association says.
May the 4th Be With You
Videos: Highlights of today’s Quebec pandemic update
Public health officials explain decision to lift Quebec’s mask mandate on May 14
Could Quebec reintroduce mask mandates in a future wave?
As Quebec lifts mask mandate, health officials urge public to remain cautious
Without the mask mandate, what tools will Quebec have to address future waves?
Public health officials anticipate another COVID-19 wave this fall
What is being done for Quebecers with long COVID?
Beijing steps up COVID curbs as virus spreads in China
Beijing shut scores of subway stations and bus routes and extended COVID-19 curbs on many public venues on Wednesday, focusing efforts to avoid the fate of Shanghai, where millions have been under strict lockdown for more than a month.
Workers, not warriors: 4 lessons from health worker protests during COVID that could help avert a looming workforce crisis
Two researchers assembled a team to investigate health worker protests during the first year of the pandemic. Through the research, they hoped to understand the frequency and geographic distribution of these protests and to explain what issues lead health workers to protest.
Here are the key findings.
62% of Quebecers will continue to wear masks after the mandate is dropped, survey suggests
Last month, 62 per cent of Quebecers said they would stick to face coverings in indoor public settings even after the province dropped the mask mandate, according to a survey by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec.
Women were more likely than men to say they’ll keep wearing masks. Also more inclined to continue wearing masks: older and university-educated Quebecers, as well as people who lived in Greater Montreal.
As mask mandate nears end, Dubé urges Quebecers to respect those who continue to wear them
With Quebec’s broad mask mandate about to end, Health Minister Christian Dubé today urged Quebecers to “respect those who wish to continue to take advantage of this means of protecting themselves effectively against COVID-19.”
In a press release, Dubé noted that masks will remain compulsory in certain settings:
- “The obligation to wear a mask in public transport is maintained because of the difficulty passengers have in managing the distances between each other.”
In health care institutions, “such as hospitals, medical clinics and CHSLDs, wearing a mask also remains mandatory, due to the high presence of vulnerable people, and because it is essential to protect staff, whose presence at work is particularly crucial in this time of health crisis.”
- People who have had COVID-19 must wear a mask “during any social interaction following their isolation, i.e. at least five days following their isolation at home.”
- Quebecers living with someone who has COVID must wear masks in indoor settings for 10 days.
Dubé noted that masks are still recommended for certain “vulnerable people and the elderly, especially those at risk of complications.” Others should wear a mask in the presence of these people in order to limit the risk of contagion, he added.
“The evolution of the epidemiological situation, which is encouraging overall, allows us to partially lift” the mask mandate, Dubé said.
Face coverings have “effectively contributed to the protection of Quebecers, and remain relevant in certain cases. Wearing the mask in the places concerned will now be a matter of individual choice. We invite citizens to remain responsible in their risk management and to show respect.”
Quebec will drop mandatory masks May 14 but some should keep wearing them, Boileau says
Quebec will drop its mask mandate as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 14, but face coverings will continue to be mandatory on public transit and in health care settings and long-term care homes (CHSLDs).
And the province will continue to recommend that certain Quebecers wear masks in all public places.
The end of the broad mask mandate means students and teachers will not be required to wear masks in schools or on school buses.
Quebec imposed the mask restriction on July 18, 2020 – 22 months ago. It’s the last pandemic measure in place in the province.
Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s interim public health director, announced the end of the mask mandate at a Quebec City press conference this morning.
He said that in some situations, masks will still be recommended. That includes older people and others who are at high risk.
“The whole portrait is improving,” Boileau said, citing declines in cases, hospitalizations and the number of health workers absent due to COVID.
“We’re on the way to exiting the sixth wave but we must stay prudent because the pandemic isn’t over. In the coming weeks, (the virus) will continue to spread in the community – not as intensely but it will still be there.”
When will Quebec drop the mask mandate on buses, subways and trains? Boileau said he will have an update in the coming days or weeks on that question, adding the plan is to drop mandatory masks on transit during the spring.
Quebec is preparing for a “probable” seventh wave in the fall, Boileau said.
He was asked if the province could re-introduce measures, including masks, if cases surge later this year. In response, he said the province’s intention is not to bring restrictions back.
“We are not expecting to re-introduce any obligation for the wearing of the mask or any other measures,” Boileau said.
“It depends on what’s going to happen. If it would be the same type (of subvariant) that we are facing right now… we do not expect to re-introduce any constraining measures…
“We will certainly give recommendations to the (public and) to the government to adjust themselves but not necessarily to introduce constraining measures. But again it depends on what’s going to happen. Nobody knows what’s going to happen.
“If anyone says they know what’s going to happen, don’t believe them.”
Dr. Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the public health department, said the question is when, not if, a seventh wave will happen in Quebec.
“It would be very surprising if this wave was the last one,” he said. “We know this virus will most likely have a seasonal pattern. So all the ingredients are there to predict another wave in the fall, maybe another one also in the winter.”
Longtin said the province’s response will depend on several factors, including which variant dominates and the extent of vaccine effectiveness and immunity from previous infections.
A vaccination campaign will be necessary during the fall, but it’s unclear which segments of the population will need to be targeted, Longtin added.
Watch the press conference:
Chart: Current situation vs. one year ago
Charts: Quebec cases, deaths
Charts: Quebec’s vaccination campaign
Quebec reports 30 new deaths as hospitalizations drop by 19
Quebec has recorded 1,630 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.
In addition, 30 new deaths were reported, bringing the cumulative total to 15,066.
Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:
- Montreal Island: 347 cases, 4 deaths.
- Net decrease in hospitalizations: 19, for total of 2,176 (164 entered hospital, 183 discharged).
- Net increase in intensive care patients: 2, for total of 78 (8 entered ICUs, 6 discharged).
- 17,745 PCR tests conducted Monday.
- 18,659 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
Moderna expects COVID to follow seasonal pattern requiring fall booster shots
From the Reuters news agency:
Moderna on Wednesday said it expects the virus that causes COVID-19 to follow a more seasonal pattern requiring booster shots in the fall.
The U.S. vaccine maker is developing a potential next-generation booster targeted at both the Omicron variant as well as the original strain of the coronavirus in hopes of producing broader protection.
“The desired features for a northern hemisphere fall-winter booster we think will be that it improves the durability of neutralizing antibodies against Omicron,” said Moderna President Stephen Hoge.
Hoge expects annual boosters to be needed for people at high-risk of severe illness, which Moderna estimates consists of roughly 1.7 billion people worldwide.
Quebecers’ life expectancy surpasses pre-pandemic levels, statistics show
Quebecers’ life expectancy has recovered from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the most recent statistics published by the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ).
The ISQ has established that the number of deaths normally expected versus those that were recorded shows a mortality increase of 4.5 per cent (6,400 deaths) in Quebec between the start of the pandemic in early March 2020 and March 12, 2022.
However, the ISQ found that the excess mortality rate in the United States is higher than that of Quebec, while that in the rest of Canada, while initially lower than Quebec, has progressively increased and surpassed it in 2021.
Severe COVID may cost survivors 10 IQ points, study finds
From the Bloomberg news agency:
Severe COVID-19 may cause long-lasting cognitive impairment, similar to how much brainpower 70-year-olds typically have lost compared to age 50, a new study found, adding to preliminary evidence that infections may inhibit survivors’ intellectual capabilities.
The study of 46 patients, who were assessed six to ten months after being hospitalized, showed slower and less accurate responses than what was expected for their age and demographic profile.
Those patients who required ventilators and organ support scored even worse. The effect was sudden, as it was the equivalent of aging 20 years intellectually within the span of a few months.
The impairment is equivalent to losing about 10 IQ points, said co-author Adam Hampshire, a professor of restorative neurosciences at Imperial College London, in an interview. He added that his team observed a very slow recovery among the case subjects if any at all.
“That will have an impact on the person’s daily function, their ability to work and go on about their lives.”
In England alone, over 40,000 COVID-19 survivors could encounter these cognitive difficulties, according to estimates by the research team. That’s a conservative estimate, Hampshire said.
The study, which was published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, adds to a growing body of research that suggests that people who have recovered from COVID-19, including patients with milder symptoms, may struggle with cognitive functions like problem-solving and could have difficulties finding words or possibly suffer “brain fog.”
Quebecers will learn fate of mask mandate this morning
Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health director, is scheduled to hold a pandemic press conference at 11 a.m. tomorrow.
I’ll have live coverage and a video feed
He is expected to announce Wednesday that it will lift the province’s mask mandate on May 14 – 22 months after the measure was introduced.
Several media outlets today reported that Premier François Legault’s government has decided to end mandatory masks in Quebec, based on a recommendation from Boileau.
Face coverings will reportedly remain mandatory on public transit and in health care institutions and long-term care homes (CHSLDs).
Masks have been mandatory in indoor public spaces in Quebec since July 18, 2020. The province is one of the last jurisdictions in North America to have a broad mask mandate.
In the early days of the pandemic, Quebec said masks were not a priority measure, suggesting that hand washing and physical distancing were more important.
That changed on May 12, 2020, when Premier François Legault appeared in public with a face mask for the first time.
It was a jarring moment as masks were not widely used at the time.
“I want to see as many Quebecers as possible wearing masks,” he told Quebecers in a briefing that day, adding that he “strongly recommends” that people across the province cover their faces when they leave their homes.
He said it was not obligatory for several reasons.
“Availability and money – is the mask available (and) are poor people able to get a mask?” Legault said.
There are also legal reasons, he said. “In order to make it (obligatory) you have to prove that it’s efficient and it’s not that clear … that it’s 100-per-cent foolproof.”
Experts now say that masks are a key tool in reducing transmission.
On that day – May 12, 2020 – Quebec reported 39,225 cases of COVID-19 as the death toll reached 3,131. Of the 118 deaths announced that day, 113 were in Greater Montreal.
Here’s Legault’s message that day:
‘It’s completely illogical’: Quebec dentists decry lack of access to PCR tests
Some dentists in Quebec are only now discovering they’re not eligible for PCR testing for COVID-19 — resulting in shock, confusion and occasionally hundreds of dollars worth of private testing.
Dentists practising in private clinics aren’t among prioritized groups, but given the nature of their work, some assumed they were — only to realize that’s not the case upon showing up to testing sites.
Omicron subvariant BA.2 more transmissible but not more virulent: Quebec report
The subvariant of the novel coronavirus that accounts for most COVID-19 infections in Quebec is more transmissible than the previous Omicron strain, but it is not more virulent, the province’s public health institute said Tuesday.
CHSLD inquiry: Coroner’s office had summoned two ministers to testify
Coroner Géhane Kamel sent a total of five summons to two ministers to testify at the inquiry into the deaths in Quebec’s long-term care centres during the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave.
Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
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