La santé

COVID updates, April 26: Hospitalizations rise as Quebec approaches grim milestone – 15000 deaths – Montreal Gazette

The number of COVID-positive patients jumped by 64 today, with four additional patients in ICUs.

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Updated throughout the day on Tuesday, April 26. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Nurses call for ‘more humanity’ in Quebec health network
  • Quebec approaches grim milestone – 15,000 deaths
  • No mandate: Novak Djokovic gets a shot at Wimbledon title defense
  • More than half of Americans have had COVID infections, study finds
  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris tests positive for COVID-19
  • WHO chief says we are ‘increasingly blind’ on COVID transmission
  • EU to move away from emergency phase of COVID pandemic, document says
  • BA.2 subvariant now makes up 83% of Quebec cases, INSPQ says
  • Quebec reports 32 new deaths as hospitalizations top 2,400 again
  • The end of sick days: Working from home has made it harder to take time off
  • U.S. to widen COVID antiviral pill distribution
  • Beijing to test 20M for COVID in bid to avert Shanghai lockdown misery
  • People 50+ eligible for 4th dose of vaccine in Saskatchewan
  • Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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3:30 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.


3:15 p.m.

Quebec nurses call for ‘more humanity’ in health network

Quebec nurses represented by the CSQ-affiliated Fédération de la santé on Tuesday called for “more humanity” in the province’s health care network, an objective it says the government can reach by improving working conditions so they can devote more time to their patients.

Read our full story.


2:50 p.m.

Quebec approaches grim milestone – 15,000 deaths

Quebec is approaching another grim milestone – 15,000 deaths among people with COVID-19.

The province reported 32 new fatalities today, bringing the cumulative total to 14,906.

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Here’s a breakdown of deaths by year:

  • 2020: 8,226
  • 2021: 3,498
  • 2022 (so far): 3,182

Here’s when Quebec reached previous milestones:

  • 1,000: April 2020
  • 5,000: June 2020
  • 10,000: February 2021

This chart, from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, breaks down deaths by wave and age:


2:45 p.m.

P.E.I. to lift one of the few remaining provincial mask mandates on May 6

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2:20 p.m.

No mandate: Novak Djokovic gets a shot at Wimbledon title defense

Unvaccinated players are not barred from participating in Wimbledon, clearing the path for Novak Djokovic to defend his men’s singles title in June.

Read our full story.


2:20 p.m.

More than half of Americans have had COVID infections, study finds

Following the record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58 per cent of the U.S. population overall and more than 75 per cent of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.

Read our full story.


1:50 p.m.

One in eight Canadians believe vaccine myths, survey reveals

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A recent poll surveying Canadians revealed skepticism towards booster shots and vaccine myths.

Of the almost 3000 individuals who were polled, one in eight Canadians believe vaccine myths and another one in five are unsure.

Read our full story.


1 p.m.

‘Competing interests’: Liberals raise security concerns with Emergencies Act review

From The Canadian Press:

A senior Liberal minister says the government has “two competing interests” when it comes to sharing information about its use of the Emergencies Act: transparency and protecting national security.

Government House leader Mark Holland was responding this morning to questions about what information the Liberals will provide to a judge tapped to lead an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the declaration of an emergency.

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While the government says Ontario Appeal Court Justice Paul Rouleau will have broad access to classified documents, it has not said whether that will include access to secret documents held by Trudeau’s cabinet.

That has sparked questions and frustration from civil liberties organizations and opposition parties who worry the inquiry will not be given access to key documents about closed-door discussions and decisions by ministers.

The Liberal government declared an emergency under the act for the first time in history on Feb. 14. The act granted extraordinary temporary powers to police and banks amid blockades in Ottawa and some border communities by demonstrators protesting against pandemic restrictions.

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The Emergencies Act requires the government to call an inquiry within 60 days of revoking such an emergency declaration.


12:35 a.m.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris tests positive for COVID-19

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12:30 p.m.

WHO chief says we are ‘increasingly blind’ on COVID transmission

The head of the World Health Organization on Tuesday urged countries to maintain surveillance of coronavirus infections, saying the world was “blind” to how the virus is spreading because of falling testing rates, the Reuters news agency reports.

“As many countries reduce testing, WHO is receiving less and less information about transmission and sequencing,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference at the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

“This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution.”

Bill Rodriguez, chief executive of FIND, a global aid group working with WHO on expanding access to testing, said “testing rates have plummeted by 70 to 90%.”

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“We have an unprecedented ability to know what is happening. And yet today, because testing has been the first casualty of a global decision to let down our guard, we are becoming blind to what is happening with this virus,” he said.


12:25 p.m.

EU to move away from emergency phase of COVID pandemic, document says

From the Reuters news agency:

The European Commission is set to say the EU has entered a new post-emergency phase of the pandemic in which testing should be targeted and monitoring of COVID-19 cases should be similar to sample-based flu surveillance, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The shift comes amid a gradual drop of cases and a fall in the number of deaths linked to COVID-19, thanks to the spread of the less virulent Omicron variant and the immunization of over 70 per cent of the EU’s population, with half of the population having received also a booster shot.

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“This Communication puts forward an approach for the management of the pandemic in the coming months, moving from emergency to a more sustainable mode,” the EU draft document says.

The Commission had no comment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is in charge of declaring a pandemic and the end of it, a move that has vast legal implications for a large variety of sectors, including insurers and vaccine makers. The U.N. agency has said the pandemic is not over.

The EU’s document is non-binding and comes with clear warnings that “COVID-19 is here to stay,” likely with the emergence of new variants, and therefore “vigilance and preparedness remain essential.”

The draft document, prepared by Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and set to be adopted on Wednesday, warns that new surges are possible and recommends EU governments keep up their guard and be ready to return to emergency measures if needed.

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However, it also acknowledges that a new phase has started and that a new approach is needed to monitor the pandemic.

That means that mass testing, whereby people with symptoms and their contacts must undergo a test, has been already dropped in some EU. states, in stark contrast with policies currently applied in China where large cities are subjected to lockdowns and regular mass testing after the detection of few cases.

The Commission recognizes this shift and encourages the introduction of more sophisticated ways of detecting outbreaks.

“Targeted diagnostic testing should be put in place,” the draft document says, noting that priority groups should include people in outbreak settings, those at risk of developing severe COVID-19 and medical staff and others who are in regular contact with vulnerable populations.

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Surveillance of the virus should also be adapted, with an increased focus on genomic sequencing to spot possible new variants and less attention on mass reporting of cases.

“The objective of surveillance should no longer be based on the identification and reporting of all cases, but rather on obtaining reliable estimates of the intensity of community transmission, of the impact of severe disease and on vaccine effectiveness,” the document says.

It suggests establishing a surveillance system similar to that used to monitor seasonal flu, in which a limited number of selected healthcare providers collect and share relevant data.

Vaccines continue to remain essential in the fight against COVID-19, the document says, recommending states consider strategies to boost vaccination among children aged five and over before the start of the next school year.

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12:10 p.m.

BA.2 subvariant now makes up 83% of Quebec cases, INSPQ says

About 83 per cent of Quebec COVID cases are linked to Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant, according to new sequencing data published today by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec.

BA.2 is more contagious but not more harmful than the BA.1 subvariant, experts say.

The pandemic’s previous wave – the fifth – began with the arrival of the BA.1 variant in December.

The latest update focuses on cases during the week of April 10.

A week earlier, BA.2 represented 76 per cent of Quebec cases.

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11:15 a.m.

Chart: Current situation vs. one year ago


11:15 a.m.

Charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:15 a.m.

Charts: Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:05 a.m.

Quebec reports 32 new deaths as hospitalizations top 2,400 again

Quebec has recorded 1,670 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, 32 new deaths were reported, bringing the cumulative total to 14,906.

An increase in hospitalizations pushed the total number of COVID-positive patients back above 2,400 for the first time since last week.

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Hospitalizations have been trending downward. Today’s increase was the biggest in six days.

The number of hospital workers absent due to COVID increased by 54, to 9,416.

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

  • Montreal Island: 352 cases, 5 deaths.
  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 64, for total of 2,409 (204 entered hospital, 140 discharged).
  • Net increase in intensive care patients: 4, for total of 90 (21 entered ICUs, 17 discharged).
  • 13,479 PCR tests conducted Sunday.
  • 22,303 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.

10:20 a.m.

The end of sick days: Working from home has made it harder to take time off

Zoom calls, email and Slack have facilitated work during lockdowns, but they have also made it harder to take sick days

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Read our full story.


10 a.m.

U.S. to widen COVID antiviral pill distribution

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is aiming to expand access to COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments like Pfizer’s Paxlovid by doubling the number of locations at which they are available, the White House said today.

Read our full story.

Dr. Cesira Nencioni, director of infectious diseases at Misericordia hospital in Italy, holds Paxlovid pills.
Dr. Cesira Nencioni, director of infectious diseases at Misericordia hospital in Italy, holds Paxlovid pills. Photo by JENNIFER LORENZINI /REUTERS

9:40 a.m.

Beijing to test 20M for COVID in bid to avert Shanghai lockdown misery

Three-quarters of Beijing’s 22 million people lined up for COVID-19 tests on Tuesday as authorities in the Chinese capital raced to stamp out a nascent outbreak and avert the debilitating city-wide lockdown that has shrouded Shanghai for a month.

Read our full story.

A woman leaves a supermarket after buying food and household provisions in Beijing on April 25, 2022. Fears of a hard COVID lockdown sparked panic buying in Beijing as long queues formed in a large central district for mass testing ordered by the Chinese authorities.
A woman leaves a supermarket after buying food and household provisions in Beijing on April 25, 2022. Fears of a hard COVID lockdown sparked panic buying in Beijing as long queues formed in a large central district for mass testing ordered by the Chinese authorities. Photo by JADE GAO /AFP via Getty Images

9:20 a.m.

Politicians, media return to hallway habits at B.C. legislature after COVID-19 rules

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From The Canadian Press:

Politicians and members of the media met each other face-to-face for the first time at the British Columbia legislature after more than two years of restrictions due to COVID-19 protocols.

Premier John Horgan greeted what he called a media “gauntlet” Monday as he passed by reporters in a legislature hallway on his way to a government caucus meeting.

Horgan stopped briefly to say the experience of seeing media in the hallways wanting to ask questions after the pandemic restrictions was “weird.”

The premier did not stay for an interview, but later, while in the chamber of the legislature, he jokingly warned other politicians that the media was back in the building looking for stories.

The B.C. legislature has been sitting throughout the pandemic, but most media events and news conferences have been conducted virtually since March 2020.

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Attorney General David Eby, who did stop and answer reporters’ questions, says meeting with media in the legislature hallways gave him a feeling that a major part of democracy was making a welcome return.

“It feels good,” says Eby. “It feels very democratic. I feel more accessible and I feel like the media has the ability to ask the questions they need to. I like it.”


9:20 a.m.

People 50+ eligible for 4th dose of vaccine in Saskatchewan

More people in Saskatchewan will be eligible for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday, The Canadian Press reports.

Health Minister Paul Merriman says people 50 years and older will be able to book an appointment through a pharmacy or clinic.

Merriman says the province is not expanding eligibility any further at this time to prevent overwhelming pharmacists.

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He says an interval of four months between a third and fourth shot will be necessary.

People 70 and older, Indigenous people 50 and older, the immunocompromised, and residents of long-term, special and personal care homes are already eligible for a booster.

Saskatchewan’s weekly COVID-19 report says unvaccinated people are five times more likely to end up in hospital with the virus and seven times more likely to die than those who have had three shots.


9:15 a.m.

Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing

Vaccinations

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Testing


8:30 a.m.

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ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


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