COVID-19: ‘Encouraging signs’ in eastern Quebec, hospitalizations continue rising

MONTREAL – COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise across Quebec, but there are some encouraging signs in the eastern parts of the province, interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau said Wednesday.

Parts of eastern Quebec such as the Gaspé peninsula and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine were hit harder and earlier by the sixth wave of COVID-19 compared with the province’s big cities. And at least in those more rural areas, the rate of transmission is declining, Boileau told reporters in Quebec City.

“We are still in the growth phase of the pandemic,” Boileau said of the current wave. “But there are a few encouraging signs, notably in the east.”

In late March, the Îles-de-la-Madeleine region reported a rate of COVID-19 transmission of more than 1,300 cases per 100,000 people. On Wednesday, officials said the rate was about 880 per 100,000. “It’s still increasing, but the rate is slowing down,” Boileau said.

“These signs suggest that we might get to a point that’ll push us on the other side of the curve,” he added.

“We really hope that to be true and that it will be the same for other regions such as the provincial capital and greater Montreal … We will see.”

Boileau, however, said the situation is still fragile; officials on Wednesday reported more than 2,000 people in hospital with COVID-19 for the first time since Feb. 14. They reported a 122-patient rise of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 13 more deaths attributed to the disease. Eighty-three patients were in intensive care, a rise of 16 compared with Tuesday.

Boileau said less than half of the patients in hospital are there because of a COVID-19 infection. “About 55 per cent of hospitalizations are people who are there for another reason, but test positive,” he said. Patients with COVID-19 who are hospitalized for other reasons nonetheless put an added strain on the health system because they have to be kept isolated, he explained.

But despite the rising cases and hospitalizations, Boileau refused to advise the government to impose gathering restrictions ahead of this weekend’s Easter holiday.

“The idea is to manage your own risk,” he said. “We don’t want to tell people not to see each other on Easter. It’s an important holiday, an opportunity to gather, but do it carefully.

“People are capable of making their own choices.”

Boileau held a news conference on Wednesday alongside Daniel Paré, the head of Quebec’s vaccination campaign, and Dr. Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the Health Department.

Meanwhile, Quebec has entered a late flu season, officials said. People who have flu symptoms — which are similar to COVID-19 symptoms — should isolate, Longtin said.

“It is quite unusual to have a flu season in April, yet this is what we are facing right now and this is somehow expected because when you lift public health measures, other viruses are going to be coming around,” Longtin said.

The province reported another 3,515 COVID-19 cases confirmed by PCR testing, which is limited to higher-risk groups, and 1,164 new positive results from take-home rapid tests uploaded by the public on an online portal.

Health officials said another 38,839 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 13, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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