COVID live updates: Quebec reports record 5,043 new cases as hospitalizations hit seven-month high

Mayor Valérie Plante declares health state of emergency in Montreal.

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Updated throughout the day on Tuesday, Dec. 21. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Live: Mayor Valérie Plante declares health emergency
  • Here’s how Quebec’s current situation compares to one year ago
  • Quebec reports record 5,043 new cases as hospitalizations hit seven-month high
  • If you have a dog, study says, you might have lower pandemic anxiety
  • Quebec ERs are exceeding capacity as holidays approach, COVID spikes
  • Opération Nez Rouge cancels drive-home service amid surge in Quebec cases
  • Belgian researchers warn against holiday reliance on rapid antigen tests
  • Omicron in Quebec: Five tips to keep yourself safe
  • Small businesses again struggling amid capacity limits
  • Quebec to report record 5,000 cases today, asks Ottawa for military help: reports
  • Province administered 64,000 booster doses yesterday, Dubé says
  • Montreal could re-enact state of emergency, Valérie Plante says
  • Quebec brings back financial aid for businesses forced to close
  • Opinion: Bracing for an Omicron Christmas catastrophe
  • A guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in Quebec
  • Here are the current pandemic restrictions in Montreal and Quebec
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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11:20 a.m.

Live: Mayor Valérie Plante declares health state of emergency

(This item is being updated)

As expected, Mayor Valérie Plante this morning declared a health state of emergency for Montreal.

On Aug. 23, the Montreal agglomeration, representing island municipalities, lifted the state of emergency it had declared 17 months earlier, on March 27, 2020.

In a statement on Facebook, Plante said:

“I am announcing this morning that I am declaring a state of emergency in the Greater Montreal area.

“The state of emergency is an additional tool which we have that allows us to face with greater agility this period of instability that affects vulnerable people, merchants, businesses and Montreal families.

“With the experience we have accumulated, we will once again be there to ensure the safety of essential workers in the agglomeration and the entire population of Montreal.

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“The state of emergency will ensure the continuity of public services during the health crisis. For example, we will be able to purchase protective and screening equipment for essential workers in the agglomeration.

“The state of emergency will also allow us to set up emergency shelter sites quickly, in order to support the health and social network.

“We all have a duty to respect public health regulations. We must, now more than ever, all do our part to limit the spread of this virus.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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11:15 a.m.

Here’s how Quebec’s current situation compares to one year ago


11:15 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:10 a.m.

Quebec reports record 5,043 new cases as hospitalizations hit seven-month high

(This item is being updated)

Quebec has recorded 5,043 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

Hospitalizations continue to mount and are now at their highest point since March.

In addition, eight new deaths were reported.

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

  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 18, for total of 415 (59 entered hospital, 41 discharged).
  • Net increase in intensive care patients: 6, for total of 88 (10 entered ICUs, 4 discharged).
  • 73,188 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
  • 42,303 tests conducted Sunday.

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 495,337 cases and 11,650 deaths linked to COVID-19.


10:35 a.m.

If you have a dog, study says, you might have lower pandemic anxiety

Dog owners appear to have been in better mental health than others since the start of the pandemic, possibly because they report being able to rely on a strong social support network, a new study suggests.

Read our full story.

Virginia Champoux with her daughters Nora-Jin Sokoloff (left) and Sarah-Qin Sokoloff with their dogs Netflix (right) and Friday.
Virginia Champoux with her daughters Nora-Jin Sokoloff (left) and Sarah-Qin Sokoloff with their dogs Netflix (right) and Friday. Photo by John Kenney /Montreal Gazette

10:35 a.m.

Quebec ERs are exceeding capacity as holidays approach, COVID spikes

As Christmas looms and COVID-19 caseload numbers rise, the emergency rooms of Quebec’s hospitals find themselves facing a spike in traffic.

Read our full story.


10:10 a.m.

Opération Nez Rouge cancels drive-home service amid surge in Quebec cases

Opération Nez rouge this morning announced that it’s cutting short its holiday drive-home service amid a surge in cases in Quebec.

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“Following yesterday’s announcements by the Quebec government, Opération Nez Rouge made the difficult decision to end the drive-home campaign that was scheduled to end on Dec. 31,” the organization said.

“Although the announced health measures were deemed more than sufficient, Opération Nez Rouge is keen to support efforts to minimize contact in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

In total this season, the service provided almost 7,000 rides over 10 evenings.

Though its drivers won’t be available for Christmas and New Year’s gatherings, the non-profit organization “would like to remind the population that there are various means to prevent impaired driving – designating a driver in the early evening, calling a taxi or even a friend are all solutions that allow you to get home safely.”

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After being forced to suspend its 2020 campaign because of the pandemic, Opération Nez Rouge announced in October that it would resume its drive-home service in nearly 30 areas of Quebec over the coming holiday season.


9:50 a.m.

New restrictions aim to further cut contacts between Quebecers

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9:35 a.m.

Belgian researchers warn against holiday reliance on rapid antigen tests

From the Reuters news agency:

Belgian researchers on Tuesday issued a pre-holiday warning against over-reliance on COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, saying they believed the breath of people infected with the disease had high levels of virus in the first two days after an infection – a period when many antigen tests were negative.

The organizations involved said they were communicating their findings in advance of a peer-reviewed publication in the interests of public health, as many families may be planning to use antigen tests as a way of screening for illness before family gatherings.

“A negative rapid antigen test just before a meeting offers no guarantee to protect others, in particular when the person tested has recently been exposed to the virus,” said Emmanuel Andre, a microbiologist at KU Leuven, which conducted the research together with UZ Leuven, a university hospital, and IMEC, a microelectronics think-tank.

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Scientists were already aware that exhaled particles are key in spreading the virus, but finding high levels of virus at the start of an infection was surprising and is a “first indication” the virus may be transmitted very early in an infection, Andre said.

“A negative antigen test should not replace self-isolation when the chance of developing the disease is high, such as during the first seven days following a high-risk contact,” he said.

In their study, researchers took 58 people who had been in close proximity with someone who was infected, and tested them regularly over a two-week period with multiple types of tests.

Of the 58, 11 later developed COVID-19. However, during the first two days of their infection, antigen tests failed to detect it half the time. PCR tests obtained by nose swabs reliably detected the disease. The aerosol tests, which are a type of PCR test that works by collecting breath and testing it on a specialized silicon chip, showed high virus levels in breath as early as the first day after an infection.

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9:30 a.m.

Omicron in Quebec: Five tips to keep yourself safe

Here’s some advice for how individual Quebecers can help to slow the spread of the fast-moving Omicron variant of the virus.

Read our full story.


9:20 a.m.

Small businesses again struggling amid capacity limits

From The Canadian Press:

Surging COVID-19 cases brought on by the spread of the Omicron variant have put a damper on the “most wonderful time of year” for small business owners, as multiple provinces reinstate tough public health restrictions.

Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that last month, the organization surveyed 4,514 small business owners and found 36 per cent were back to normal sales.

But now, with capacity limits in place, he says that “any little glimmer of hope that many businesses saw at the end of this two-year tunnel are quickly being extinguished.”

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Starting today, tighter gathering and capacity rules are in place in Manitoba, where health officials said climbing cases due to Omicron were expected to exceed its resources for notifying most close contacts.

Quebec has announced earlier closing times for bars, restaurants entertainment venues and movie theatres as it reported a new single-day record of 4,571 COVID-19 infections.

Calling the situation “critical,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant has changed everything, as vaccines that offered 70 per cent protection against symptomatic infection from the Delta variant are believed to offer 30 per cent protection against Omicron.

Other provinces are also imposing new restrictions:

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  • B.C. has limited capacity to 50 per cent at venues that hold more than 1,000 people, but is extending its cap on fees charged by food delivery companies in an effort to help the restaurant industry.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, has limited bars to 50 per cent capacity and restaurants to 75 per cent with physical distancing. The province also sent kids home Monday as schools closed early in response to rising caseloads.
  • Ontario implemented its new public health orders Sunday, which see restaurants, retailers, gyms and other indoor settings operating at 50 per cent capacity.

9:15 p.m.

MUCH updates guidelines for clinical operations

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9:10 a.m.

Quebec to report record 5,000 cases today, asks Ottawa for military help: reports

Quebec will set a record today, registering at least 5,000 cases, according to multiple media reports this morning.

The province reported 4,571 cases yesterday – the highest number yet.

Yesterday, as he announced a series of tough new measures, Health Minister Christian Dubé said the government would receive new case and hospitalization projections last night.

He said more restrictions could follow, depending on what the forecasts from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec showed.

The INSPQ report has not been made public yet but Radio Canada this morning is reporting that the projections are “catastrophic.”

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In other news, there are reports that Quebec has asked the federal government for help from the Canadian Armed Forces, with military personnel to be used as reinforcements in the lagging campaign to administer booster shots.

Those vaccinations are key because experts say even people doubly vaccinated are not protected enough against the new Omicron variant that is spreading quickly in the province.


9 a.m.

Quebec administered 64,000 booster doses yesterday, Dubé says

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9 a.m.

Montreal could re-enact state of emergency, Valérie Plante says

With COVID-19 cases soaring to record levels , Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante — who has herself contracted the virus — is not ruling out re-enacting a state of emergency.

Read our full story, by Marian Scott.


9 a.m.

Quebec brings back financial aid for businesses forced to close

The Quebec government has announced the reopening of a financial aid program for businesses that have been forced to shut down because of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read our full story.


9 a.m.

Opinion: Bracing for an Omicron Christmas catastrophe

“As Christmas Day creeps closer, the COVID-19 situation in Quebec has never been worse, even compared to the second week of March 2020. Montreal became the epicentre of the pandemic in Canada when COVID-19 snuck up on us as we were all off enjoying spring break. Now the new Omicron variant has mounted a stealthy attack in the run-up to Christmas. And we’ve failed to react quickly enough.”

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Read the latest column by Allison Hanes.


8:45 a.m.

The situation across Canada

Here’s the rate of case growth per 100,000 people over the past seven days, via the federal government’s latest epidemiological update .


8:45 a.m.

FAQ: Who can get their third dose in Quebec? And when?

Quebec is expanding eligibility for a third COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Here’s what you need to know about the province’s booster plan.


8:45 a.m.

A guide to Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport

Quebec’s vaccine passport is mandatory for people 13 and older who want to access services and activities deemed non-essential by the provincial government, including bars, restaurants, gyms, festivals and sporting events.

Quebecers can use a smartphone app to prove their vaccination status or simply carry their QR code on paper.

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The app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play .

We have published two guides to the passports – one looks at how to download and set up the app , and another answers key questions about the system, including how, when and why.

You can find more information on the Quebec government’s website – one page has details on how the system works, and another has a list of the places where a vaccine passport will be required .

A test scan of a vaccine passport is shown at an Econofitness gym in Laval on Aug. 17, 2021.
A test scan of a vaccine passport is shown at an Econofitness gym in Laval on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Christinne Muschi /REUTERS

8:45 a.m.

A guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in Quebec

Local health authorities have set up mass vaccination sites across Montreal.

You can book appointments via the Clic Santé website or by phone at 1-877-644-4545.

Quebecers can also visit walk-in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccine clinics .

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Here are the nuts and bolts of getting vaccinated , by Katherine Wilton. Her guide includes the age groups targeted, how to book appointments, and addresses of vaccination centres.


8:45 a.m.

Here are the current pandemic restrictions in Montreal and Quebec

We are regularly updating our list of what services are open, closed or modified in Montreal and Quebec.

You can read it here.


8:45 a.m.

Here’s where Montrealers can get tested today

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

For other parts of Quebec, check out this page on the Quebec government’s site .


8:30 a.m.

Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

Stay informed with our daily email newsletter focused on local coronavirus coverage and other essential news, delivered directly to your email inbox by 7 p.m. on weekdays.

You can sign up here .


ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


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