COVID-19: Quebec to ease restrictions on visiting seniors' residences, Premier Legault says
MONTREAL -- Saying that all hands on deck are needed right now to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec's seniors' residences, Premier Francois Legault announced Tuesday that the province is easing restrictions on visiting those facilities.
As of Thursday, a single pre-existing primary caregiver - to be identified by administrators at individual CHSLDs, Quebec's long-term care residences for seniors - will be allowed to visit and care for a patient residing in one of the residences.
No one else other than those identified caregivers, CHSLD employees and healthcare workers will be allowed access to the seniors' homes, many of which have been sites of outbreaks and deaths related to COVID-19.
About 10 per cent of residents had caregivers coming to visit them regularly before the March 13 shutdown.
Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said under measures to take effect Thursday, caregivers will have to be identified by management as having done the job previously, they will have to test negative for COVID-19 and follow hygiene measures. They will also sign a consent form so they understand what they could be exposed to.
Arruda explained the situation in hospitals and intensive care wards would have been far worse now had health authorities not decided to cut off all visits.
But he noted what wasn't known at the beginning of the epidemic was that asymptomatic people could spread the virus -- which likely contributed to contamination in elder care homes filled with vulnerable residents, a phenomenon consistent with other jurisdictions.
Family members will still not be permitted to visit their loved ones.
"This is really tragic, it's a human tragedy, what's happening right now," said Health Minister Danielle McCann. "It's very difficult for the families, and it's very difficult for the staff. We're losing some people that are very dear to us, and we won't stop at anything to really, really protect them."
Legault also called on health-care workers in other areas - such as medical specialists and health instructors - to offer up their services at CHSLDs.
The government has been redeploying hospital employees to long-term care, but the facilities remain short of staff. So the premier has put the call out to anyone with relevant training to help if they can.
At least 1,250 orderlies and attendants working in the homes either have COVID-19 or are unwilling to work for fear of being infected, officials said.
"I'm asking everybody available, every health worker to come forward and help us," Legault said. "I appeal to your sense of duty to help us protect the most vulnerable."
There are now 435 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Tuesday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 14,248.
That’s up 75 from the 360 deaths reported Monday; COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 691 from the 13,557 announced a day earlier.
The 75 deaths represent the biggest one-day jump in the number of COVID-19 fatalities in Quebec.
The province says nearly half of its COVID-19 deaths are tied to seniors residences.
There are 936 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Tuesday, up 57 from the 879 reported Monday; of those in a hospital, 230 are in intensive care, up only four from the 226 reported 24 hours earlier.
There are 2,394 people waiting for COVID-19 test results in Quebec as of Tuesday, down 251 from the 2,645 reported a day earlier.
The number of people in Quebec who have recovered from COVID-19 as of Tuesday was 2,146 up 164 from the 1,982 recoveries reported Monday.
Montreal remains the epicentre of COVID-19 in the provinces, with 6,628 cases; you can see a provincial breakdown of COVID-19 cases here.
- The Canadian Press contributed to this report.