By Gordon Lambie
It was a weekend of unprecedented numbers in Quebec, as the province recorded 11,246 new cases of COVID-19 from Friday through Sunday, with all three days reporting over 3,600. The new record high numbers served to underscore the significance of the restrictions that were reintroduced on Thursday evening, and come into effect on Monday, Dec. 20.
As of Sunday there were 376 people hospitalized due to Covid across the province, 79 of whom were in intensive care. The Province also reported 12 deaths over the weekend, bringing the total number of people who have died because of the virus in Quebec to 11,639.
To date, 485,723 people have contracted COVID-19 in Quebec.
Friday’s update from the Eastern Townships also featured the highest numbers the region has ever seen. In an update on Facebook Friday morning, Regional public health director Dr. Alain Poirier shared that the region reported 396 cases that day, the highest single-day total so far. The public report for Wednesday and Thursday of last week indicated 516 new cases, and a total of 1,822 active cases across the territory at that point in time. The data also showed more than 100 active cases in every sub-region of the Townships other than la Pommeraie and Coaticook, which had 59 and 96, respectively. Looked at in relation to their populations, the rate of infection remained high throughout, with the Des Sources area leading with nearly one in every 100 people now considered an active case.
There were 76 active outbreaks being monitored across the region as of Friday, 49 of which were in schools and 12 of which were in daycare centres, and 35 hospitalizations with four in intensive care.
The region also reported one new death, for a total of 389 to date.
In the face of growing public concern surrounding the increased restrictions and rising numbers, Poirier emphasized the importance of the ongoing vaccination campaign.
“We are not in this situation because the vaccine doesn’t work,” the public health director said, pointing out that the level of hospitalizations and deaths in the region and across the province is much lower during this wave than it was at this time last year. Noting, however, that the vaccine is not a perfect shield, he argued that it is still worth getting given the increasing evidence that those who get the shot are significantly less likely to end up in the hospital and also less likely to die as a result of the virus.
In an effort to help increase the accessibility of testing amid the spike in cases in the region, the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS handed out thousands of take-home rapid test kits at sites in Sherbrooke and Granby over the weekend. The kits were reserved for people who were symptomatic, and still require a ‘traditional’ test at a testing centre to confirm a positive result. More such tests are expected to be available for free at pharmacies as of this week.
According to Jean Delisle, director of the vaccination campaign in the Eastern Townships, over 17,000 of the 36,000 people aged 5-11 in the region have already received a first dose of the COVID 19 vaccine, and more than 34,000 booster shots had been administered as of Friday, with more than twice that many additional appointments booked.
On the subject of booster shots, Delisle said that the change from six months between the second and third doses to three months that was announced on Thursday prompted a certain number of people to try to show up for a dose without an appointment. With stress already high within the healthcare system, and vaccinators looking to prioritize certain groups, the campaign director encouraged everyone to make an appointment in advance.