Politics

COVID live updates: As hospitalizations rise, Quebec could ramp down clinical services


The number of COVID-positive patients jumped by 145 – the biggest one-day jump since early January.

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Updated throughout the day on Tuesday, April 12. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • ‘We have to be careful,’ Legault says of rise in COVID-positive patients
  • BA.2 variant spreading ‘quite widely’ across Canada
  • Hospitalizations close to level where Quebec ramped down clinical services in previous waves
  • Opinion: On the Herron, Legault has much to answer for
  • Video: Federal officials provide pandemic update
  • Ontario hospitalizations jump by 276
  • You’ll soon be able to use the seat immediately behind STM bus drivers
  • Quebec reports 35 deaths as hospitalizations surge
  • Province registers 145 new COVID-positive patients – biggest jump since January
  • U.K. PM Boris Johnson fined for breaking COVID lockdown rules
  • Opinion: Too many deaths to count at Herron CHSLD
  • Kirkland’s Héma-Québec facility needs blood donors
  • As provinces ask people to manage COVID risks, experts say the public has less data
  • Health care money to provinces will come with strings attached, Liberals suggest
  • U.S. seeks to resume enforcing federal employee vaccine mandate
  • Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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2:05 p.m.

‘We have to be careful,’ Legault says of rise in COVID-positive patients

At a brief press conference in Quebec City this afternoon, Premier François Legault was asked what could be done to slow down a rise in hospitalizations that could lead the province to start cancelling hospital procedures.

Legault didn’t answer directly.

“Public health is telling us that we should go up to 2,200, 2,300 hospitalizations in the next couple of weeks, and then they forecast that we may see a drop,” the premier said.

“So, we continue to have to be careful but we also need to remember that in the hospitalizations, half of them are with COVID, not for COVID.”

Legault was referring to the fact that about half of COVID-positive patients in Quebec hospitals were admitted due to the disease, while the other half tested positive but are in hospitals for other reasons.

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1:50 p.m.

BA.2 variant spreading ‘quite widely’ across Canada

As public health measures have lifted across the country, several indicators of COVID-19 are rising all across Canada, driven by BA.2, a highly contagious sub-lineage of the Omicron variant, The Canadian Press reports.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.

That makes the risk assessment fairly simple right now, she said.

“All across Canada, doesn’t matter where you are, it’s very likely that Omicron variant, the BA.2 sub-lineage, is spreading quite widely in your community. So doesn’t matter where you are in Canada right now,” Tam said, advising everyone to get vaccinated, wear a mask and improve ventilation to limit the spread.

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She said public access to information about where the virus is spreading and who it is impacting needs to improve so people can make informed decisions.

“We need to continuously provide some of the epidemiologic information that we know about,” she said.


1:20 p.m.

James Bay Cree territory has highest infection rate

From The Canadian Press:

Quebec’s public health institute says the James Bay Cree territory has 206 active reported infections, which represents the highest infection rate in the province, with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.

The Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine and the Bas-St-Laurent regions, in eastern Quebec, each have more than 700 active cases per 100,000 people.

The institute says the province has an average of about 350 active cases per 100,000 people.

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1:15 p.m.

Hospitalizations close to level where Quebec ramped down clinical services in previous waves

The latest provincial figures show there are currently 1,938 COVID-positive patients in Quebec hospitals.

That means Quebec is approaching a level at which it has in previous waves ramped down clinical services in an overwhelmed hospital system – known in French as délestage.

According to the Health Department guidelines, when the province reaches 2,124 COVID hospitalizations is has reached Level 4 – a severe degree of délestage.

In January, Dr. Lucie Opatrny, Quebec’s top hospital official, warned that “délestage greatly risks becoming more accentuated in the days and weeks to follow.”

Opatrny explained that under Level 4, there are “even heart surgeries … that are set aside. There are even cancers, like cancer of the prostate in some cases, that can be set aside.”

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Hospitalizations have been rising steadily over the past three weeks.

On Friday, when hospitalizations were at 1,637, Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim director of public health, was asked about the possibility that the province would have to ramp down medical services.

“If this increase continues, but also if the number of health care workers who are absent because of COVID continues to increase… there is a possible effect on the supply of services from the health and social services system. Not just in hospitals, but other services could start be affected.”

He said there are “zones of fragility that could lead to délestage for a period of time.”

At that briefing, Boileau said he expects the rise in hospitalizations to continue for two weeks.

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12:30 p.m.

Opinion: On the Herron, Legault has much to answer for

“Ministerial responsibility is the cornerstone of our parliamentary system. François Legault is the first minister. He is the head of government.

“His government was incompetent, inept and incapable during the first wave. He’s still trying to deny it and won’t even agree to the most obvious way of getting to the truth: a full commission of inquiry.

“Short of that, the next best hope for families to learn some of the truth will be the coroner’s report.”

Read Tom Mulcair’s latest column.


11:40 a.m.

Video: Federal officials provide pandemic update

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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11:40 a.m.

Ontario hospitalizations jump by 276

Ontario is reporting 1,366 people in hospital with COVID-19 today, compared with 1,090 hospitalizations on Monday, The Canadian Press reports.

That’s an increase of 276.

The number of COVID-positive patients in intensive care is now 190, up from 184 in ICUs.

Ontario recorded five more deaths from the virus, but says one death was also deducted from the total count due to data cleaning.

Another 2,300 new infections are reported today, but access to PCR testing is restricted.

The scientific director of Ontario’s panel of COVID-19 advisers has said wastewater surveillance suggests the province is seeing between 100,000 and 120,000 new cases each day.


11:35 a.m.

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Chart: Current situation vs. one year ago


11:35 a.m.

Charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:35 a.m.

Charts: Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:15 a.m.

You’ll soon be able to use the seat immediately behind STM bus drivers

Montreal’s transit agency today announced that it will soon allow riders to use the seat immediately behind bus drivers. The Société de transport de Montréal closed those seats early in the pandemic.

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11:05 a.m.

Quebec reports 35 deaths as hospitalizations surge

Quebec has recorded 2,596 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, 35 new deaths were reported, bringing the cumulative total to 14,579.

The number of COVID-positive patients jumped by 145 – the biggest one-day jump since early January.

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

  • Montreal Island: 489 tests, 5 deaths.
  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 145, for total of 1,938 (294 entered hospital, 149 discharged).
  • Net decrease in intensive care patients: 2, for total of 67 (16 entered ICUs, 18 discharged).
  • 16,236 PCR tests conducted Sunday.
  • 25,602 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.

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10:20 a.m.

U.K. PM Boris Johnson fined for breaking COVID lockdown rules

From the Bloomberg news agency:

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have been told by London police that they’ll be fined for attending rule-breaking gatherings during a pandemic lockdown, the most damaging development yet in a scandal dubbed “partygate” by the British media.

Britain’s two most powerful politicians were informed Tuesday by the Metropolitan Police about the intention to fine them, Johnson’s office said in a statement. It said it had no further details.

The fines will buttress the public perception that while ordinary Britons faced severe restrictions on socializing during the Covid-19 pandemic, the premier and his aides were partying in government buildings. It could also reinvigorate calls from within Johnson’s own Conservative Party to oust the premier.

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Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer said the fines are a sign the two men had “repeatedly lied to the British public.”

The allegations of lockdown partying brought Johnson’s premiership to the brink earlier this year when more than a dozen of his own MPs publicly called on him to resign.

The clamour has since subsided with some lawmakers retracting their calls for the premier’s departure as attention turned toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


9:40 a.m.

Opinion: Too many deaths to count at Herron CHSLD

Authorities struggled to keep track of who and how many died after the West Island CIUSSS took over the nursing home.

Read Allison Hanes’ latest column.


9:40 a.m.

Kirkland’s Héma-Québec facility needs blood donors

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A year after opening a new blood donor facility in Kirkland, Héma-Québec is asking the public’s help to boost the number of blood donations.

The rolling waves of the COVID-19 pandemic may be partly responsible for the dearth of local donors

Read our full story, by John Meagher.


9:40 a.m.

As provinces ask people to manage COVID risks, experts say the public has less data

Provincial governments are telling Canadians to estimate their own sense of risk but those same governments are reducing the amount of data available to residents, health experts say.

Read our full story.


9:40 a.m.

Health care money to provinces will come with strings attached, Liberals suggest

The federal government is prepared to put more money into health care, but the no-strings attached approach premiers have been demanding is off the table, as the Liberals are prepared to tie their dollars to results, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

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Read our full story.


9:40 a.m.

U.S. seeks to resume enforcing federal employee vaccine mandate

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to allow the Biden administration to resume enforcing a federal employee vaccine mandate that had been blocked by a lower-court judge in January.

Read our full story.


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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