In addition to a sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has yet to crest, the province is also facing the late arrival of a flu season.
“It is unusual, but it is the case,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s Interim Director of Public Health on Wednesday, sharing that cases of the influenza virus are being found both in the community and within the hospital system, despite the fact that it is out of synch with the ‘traditional’ flu season.
The public health director said that the return of the virus, which has been largely absent over the last two years, was to be expected as public health measures put in place to combat Covid are relaxed.
“If you have symptoms and consistently test negative, it is probably the flu,” he said, noting that the way the two viruses present is very similar, and encouraging people to take the same response to a case of the flu as they would to getting covid: isolate for five days followed by five days masked anywhere you go in public.
With regard to the ongoing sixth wave, Boileau said that case and hospitalization numbers continue to rise, but some of the regions that showed the earliest rises in cases are starting to improve. Despite what he called ‘encouraging signs’ and a large number of fairly mild cases however, the public health director said that there is still a strain being placed on the hospital system.
Boileau said that there are currently 12,764 employees of the healthcare system on sick or preventative leave at the same time that the number of people in hospital with Covid swung back up above 2,000 for the first time since Valentine’s Day. In the face of those statistics, however, he maintained the position that it is up to individuals to assess their own level of risk when it comes to gatherings over the Easter weekend.
Speaking of higher risk categories, Boileau said that the majority of more serious hospitalizations are among people who are 70 and older, or those who are immune compromised or unvaccinated.
He also noted that the province now has 7,500 doses of the Novavax vaccine available for distribution, with another 220,000 expected over the coming weeks. The vaccine is available for anyone 18 or older who cannot or refuse to take an mRNA vaccine like those made by Pfizer or Moderna.
Local ERs crowded
In the lead-up to the long weekend the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS is advising the public that local hospitals are experiencing above-average crowding in their emergency departments.
“There are lots of viruses circulating,” said Dr. Stéphanie Blais-Boilard, the Deputy Head of the Regional Department of General Medicine, encouraging anyone with another option to consider not going straight to the ER if possible.
Anyone not sure if they need to see a doctor should start, Blais-Boilard said, by consulting Info-Santé at 811. Those who have a family doctor should consult through those clinics, she added, and the province’s so-called ‘orphan patients’ should be able to secure an appointment at a local clinic through the Quebec.ca website at https://sante.gouv.qc.ca/en/repertoire-ressources/consultations-medicales-sans-rendez-vous/
Dr. Genevieve Simard-Racine told local media that there are not currently any hospitalizations in the region due to the Influenza virus, although there have been confirmed cases in the region. She noted, however, that gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the stomach flu, is also making the rounds in the area and has put a few people in the hospital.
Despite encouraging the public to consider other options, the two doctors emphasized that people who have appointments at local hospitals should not be afraid to come to them.
The Province of Quebec reported 2,060 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday, an increase of 122 compared to the previous day. At the same time, the number of patients in hospital because of the virus increased by 45, to 883.
The number of people in intensive care with Covid increased by 16 compared to Tuesday, jumping up to 83. Although the percentage of patients that were in the ICU remained unchanged at 71, 11 out of the 16 new patients fell into this category.
The province reported 13 new deaths linked to the virus, for a total of 14,592 since the start of the pandemic.
In the Eastern Townships there were 21 new Covid-related hospitalizations, bringing the local total to 146 with five in intensive care. There was also one new death attributed to the virus in the region, for a local total of 561.
Quebec recorded 40,073 additional vaccine doses administered on Wednesday, all but about 3,500 of which were fourth doses.