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COVID live updates: Number of infected hospital patients expected to drop in Quebec over next two weeks

By early May, about 1,912 hospital beds are expected to be occupied by COVID patients, down from 2,372. The number of ICU patients is expected to drop to about 70, from 92.

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Updated throughout the day on Wednesday, April 27. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Canada investigating cases of severe acute hepatitis in children, Tam says
  • Number of infected hospital patients expected to drop over next two weeks, institute says
  • Legault government has failed on family doctors, ER overcrowding, Québec solidaire says
  • Quebec reports 22 new deaths, 37-patient drop in hospitalizations
  • Bloc Québécois MP tests positive
  • Quebec’s sixth wave is on the wane, experts say
  • It’s ‘understandable’ that Quebec ERs are swamped, Legault says
  • U.S. is ‘out of the pandemic phase,’ Fauci says
  • What you need to know about Omicron subvariants
  • ‘Rolling Thunder’ organizers were also part of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests
  • Pfizer, BioNTech seek U.S. authorization of booster shot for younger kids
  • Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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1:30 p.m.

Canada investigating cases of severe acute hepatitis in children, Tam says

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says her department is aware of several cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin under investigation in young children in Canada, with confirmation pending.

“Health authorities across Canada are aware and will be investigating and reporting suspected cases,” she said via Twitter this afternoon.

Almost 200 cases of unexplained acute hepatitis have been reported in children in recent weeks. (See item below, timestamped 11:45 a.m.)

“While adenovirus is currently one hypothesis as the underlying cause, it does not fully explain the severity of the clinical picture,” the World Health Organization says.

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The WHO added: “Factors such as increased susceptibility amongst young children following a lower level of circulation of adenovirus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential emergence of a novel adenovirus, as well as SARS-CoV-2 co-infection, need to be further investigated.

“Hypotheses related to side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines are currently not supported as the vast majority of affected children did not receive COVID-19 vaccination. Other infectious and non-infectious explanations need to be excluded to fully assess and manage the risk.”

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1 p.m.

Number of infected hospital patients expected to drop over next two weeks, institute says

In another sign that the sixth wave may be waning in Quebec, a provincial government health-care research institute says it expects the rise in hospitalizations will slow down over the next two weeks.

In a weekly update published today, the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) said it expects about 150 new COVID-positive patients to be admitted to Quebec hospitals daily over the next two weeks.

A week ago, the institute was predicting about 200 new daily hospitalizations. The week before that, it was forecasting about 278 daily admissions.

It expects that within two weeks, about 1,912 Quebec hospital beds will be occupied by COVID patients, down from the current 2,372.

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The number of COVID-positive Quebecers in intensive care units is expected to drop to about 70, down from the current 92.

Quebec officials are keeping an eye on hospitalizations, a key indicator they will use in deciding whether to lift the province’s last remaining pandemic restriction – mandatory masks in indoor public spaces.

In its report, the INESSS also said that last week (April 16 to 22):

  • The number of new hospital COVID cases fell by five per cent – the first decline in more than a month.
  • The decline in hospitalizations was observed in all age groups, except among people aged 80 and over for whom there was a three-per-cent increase compared to the previous week.
  • Just over half of the hospitalizations (52%) were patients who entered a hospital for a reason other than COVID but were declared positive upon admission or during their stay.

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11:45 a.m.

Almost 200 cases of unexplained acute hepatitis reported in children

From the Reuters news agency:

Around 190 unexplained cases of severe hepatitis have been reported in children around the world, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Tuesday.

The outbreak was first reported this month in Britain – which has registered 111 cases, mostly in children under 10 – and has since been identified in at least 12 countries worldwide.

Some 40 cases have been recorded in the European Union and European Economic Area, ECDC director Andrea Ammon told reporters in a virtual briefing.

The United States and Israel have also seen cases.

The ECDC is investigating alongside national authorities and the World Health Organization. Severe hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, is rare in otherwise healthy children.

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Unusually, the new cases do not feature the viruses typically responsible for acute liver inflammation – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

According to the WHO, 17 children have needed liver transplants as a result of the recent cases, and one has died.

Ammon said the investigations so far pointed towards a link to infection with an adenovirus, a family of common viruses that can cause flu-like or gastrointestinal symptoms.

She said a theory that COVID-19 lockdowns may have weakened children’s immunity, because they were less exposed to common pathogens while in isolation, was one of several being considered.

Scientists are also investigating whether the adenovirus involved has mutated, or is acting in tandem with another infection, possibly COVID-19. A toxin could also be responsible, but this is thought to be less likely due to the geographical spread of the cases reported.

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Any link with COVID-19 vaccination has been ruled out.


11:35 a.m.

Legault government has failed on family doctors, ER overcrowding, Québec solidaire says

Health Minister Christian Dubé will present his department’s spending estimates to a National Assembly committee today.

In advance of that appearance, Québec solidaire health critic Vincent Marissal denounced what he called Premier François Legault’s poor record on health care.

In the 2018 election, Legault promised a family doctor for every Quebecer and an improvement in emergency room waiting times.

Instead, the number of Quebecers without family doctors has skyrocketed over the past four years and the situation in ERs is worse, Marissal told reporters in Quebec City.

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An estimated 1.5 million Quebecers are currently without a family doctor.

“It failed in every aspect of its programs and promises,” Marissal said of the CAQ government.

“So, to see this government trying again to hide behind a smokescreen, going out again with new slogans, with new programs, with new plans, with no timeline, no money, I mean, yes, it’s disappointing, but it’s time for the government to answer questions. And I will try to do just that today” at the committee hearing.

Marissal said Legault’s CAQ government has failed to deal with a longstanding, chronic shortage of health workers in Quebec. Many nurses and other workers are abandoning the public system in favour of the private sector, he added.

“If people are leaving the public sector to the private sector, of course, you have fewer people in the pool of the public sector,” he said. “That’s what happened, that’s what has been happening in Quebec for so many years, and that’s why people are waiting for so long in ER hallways in Quebec.”

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Marissal added: “It’s not because beds are not available on the… floor, it’s because we don’t have the human resources on the floor to take care of these people. So, let’s go back to basics… and do all you can to attract and keep your personnel in the public sector.”

Legault and Dubé are blaming the pandemic on the difficulties facing the health network.

“Of course, well, it’s always somebody else’s fault with this government,” Marissal said. “That’s the way François Legault governs, it’s always somebody else’s fault.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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11:30 a.m.

Chart: Current situation vs. one year ago


11:30 a.m.

Charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:30 a.m.

Charts: Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:05 a.m.

Quebec reports 22 new deaths, 37-patient drop in hospitalizations

Quebec has recorded 2,066 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, 22 new deaths were reported, bringing the cumulative total to 14,928.

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

  • Montreal Island: 436 cases, 4 deaths.
  • Net decrease in hospitalizations: 37, for total of 2,372 (213 entered hospital, 250 discharged).
  • Net increase in intensive care patients: 2, for total of 92 (17 entered ICUs, 15 discharged).
  • 20,092 PCR tests conducted Monday.
  • 29,967 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc Québécois MP tests positive

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas, the Member of Parliament for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques has tested positive for COVID-19, the party announced this morning.

Blanchette-Joncas has placed himself in self-isolation at home, the party said in a press release.


9:40 a.m.

Quebec’s sixth wave is on the wane, experts say

The sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Quebec tackled with fewer health restrictions than ever before, appears to have peaked.

Six weeks after authorities officially pronounced it had begun, the numbers of cases are trending down and hospitalizations in the province have stabilized, health experts said.

Read our full story, by René Bruemmer.

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9:40 a.m.

It’s ‘understandable’ that Quebec ERs are swamped, Legault says

From The Canadian Press:

As of yesterday, 9,416 Quebec health-care workers were off the job due to COVID-19.

Quebec’s emergency rooms remain under heavy strain with many over 100 per cent capacity.

Health officials had warned in mid-April that the rest of the month would be tough for ERs, with COVID-19 and an unexpected late flu season helping to fill up waiting rooms.

Premier Francois Legault told reporters in Quebec City on Tuesday the backlog is to be expected as the province grapples with the sixth wave.

“In the current context, there are (almost) 10,000 employees who are absent, there are surgeries that have been postponed that we have to make up for; I think that’s understandable,” Legault said.

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“What we want is to reduce that time in the emergency room – half the people who go to the emergency room shouldn’t be at the emergency, they should have been seen on the front line in a private clinic or a community clinic (CLSC) or a family medicine clinic.”

An ambulance at the emergency bay of Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal.
An ambulance at the emergency bay of Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

9:30 a.m.

U.S. is ‘out of the pandemic phase,’ Fauci says

From The Washington Post:

The United States is finally “out of the pandemic phase,” the country’s top infectious disease expert said, as cases and hospitalizations are notably down and mask mandates are all but extinct.

While there are still new infections spreading throughout the country – an average of 50,000 per day as of Tuesday – the country is far from the heights of the pandemic, when daily case counts surpassed 1 million. Restrictions, too, are easing as many Americans appear to be putting the pandemic behind them. Masking requirements have been lifted across most of the country, and officials stopped enforcing a federal mask mandate in transportation settings after a judge struck down the requirement.

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“We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase,” Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday evening on PBS’s “NewsHour.”

Fauci said the U.S. was no longer seeing “tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.”

During the pandemic’s darkest moments, many wondered when the country would officially declare itself past the nationwide disaster, which has killed nearly 1 million Americans.

Fauci’s comments are likely to fuel debate about whether this is truly the moment: New cases are on the rise in the United States, and deaths are down, though they often lag spikes in cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that as of the end of February, nearly 60 percent of Americans – including three out of every four children – have been infected with the coronavirus. But officials cautioned that the data did not indicate that Americans have widespread immunity against the virus because of their prior infections.

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While previous infections are believed to offer some protection against serious disease for most people, health experts say the best protection against infection and serious disease or death from the coronavirus is vaccination.

The coronavirus will not be eradicated, Fauci said, but can be handled if its level of spread is kept “very low” and people are “intermittently” vaccinated, though he said he did not know how frequently. And Fauci echoed warnings from the World Health Organization and the United Nations this month that worldwide, the pandemic is far from over as vaccinations lag, particularly in developing nations.


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9:30 a.m.

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9:30 a.m.

Pfizer, BioNTech seek U.S. authorization of booster shot for younger kids

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Pfizer and its partner BioNTech say they have submitted an application to the U.S. health regulator for the authorization of a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years.

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9:30 a.m.

EU looks at ramping up COVID vaccinations of kids, developing antivirals

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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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