'Critical' situation: Quebec reports 799 new cases of COVID-19 as hospitalizations increase by 35
MONTREAL -- Quebec's premier is calling the situation 'critical' as health authorities reported another 799 cases of COVID-19 in the province on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 73,450.
The province is also reporting seven more deaths linked to the disease, two of which occurred in the past 24 hours and five more that are from sometime between Sept. 22 and 27. The total number of deaths in the province now stands at 5,833.
There are 35 more hospitalizations due to COVID-19 from Monday to Tuesday, for a total of 247 across the province. Of those in hospital, 41 are receiving treatment in the intensive care ward, which is an increase of four from the number reported 24 hours earlier. Tuesday's jump in hospitalizations is the highest single-day increase the province has seen since June 5, when it reported an increase of 38.
"The situation remains critical and this is what we expected," Legault said at a 1 p.m. news conference sitting between Health Minister Christian Dube and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda, with plexiglass dividers between them.
Legault spoke directly to young people, saying more than half the cases of community spread are happening in the younger population.
"I know it's difficult, I was young myself, I remember what we wanted to do is go out with our friends and have fun," Legault said. "But really I want to repeat this: part of the solution is within your hands."
Legault also clarified the government's reasoning for closing some business sectors – such as bars, dining rooms and theatres – but not others like shops and gyms.
He said it has to do with exposure time: people are less likely to spend ten minutes or more in close proximity with others while shopping, but that is not the case for dining, attending the theatre or going to a bar.
"Is this perfect? I don't know. Will we have to close down other (sectors)? Maybe. But right now, we are basing our decisions on long-time contact," he said.
The premier said an announcement is coming shortly about financial help for the affected sectors.
"We do have a model, we are waiting until we get an approval, so in the next few days we're going to announce financial measures to help restaurants, theatres, etc.," Legault said.
"There is no such thing as a simple reason or a simple solution -- it's a question of balance," Arruda said. "It's not easy -- there are so many elements, home, restaurants, etc... But one thing is quite important: we have to do something strong right now."
Legault said changes are also likely coming for issues like road checkpoints, protects and police access to houses, and that he would make any announcements in a press conference on Wednesday.
Dube said on Twitter on Tuesday that the jump in hospitalizations is due to an increase in cases, and that "It is to spare our already weakened health system that we must do everything to limit our contacts and curb the spread of the virus."
"Right now, people are trying to forecast, to predict what they will need," Dube said. "We're trying to send a signal to Quebecers -- the number of cases is something, but today, what I see, is 35 more hospitalizations in one day. This is a lot, and this has been going on for a few days."
Dube said he hopes not to see hospitalizations rise too much over the next few days, particularly in areas where there is not a surplus of health-care staffing.
"When we have many different outbreaks -- like what happened in Quebec City -- we see there can be a shortage," he said.
Arruda said so far there would be not changes concerning students wearing masks in classrooms following discussions on the matter.
"We are following the situation day by day. I'm not saying we will not make any changes on that," he said, adding that more important than wearing masks throughout the day is that schools and students follow the two-metre distancing rule.
"To wear a mask for many hours is difficult. Right now what we're seeing is young people are gathering outside of school - so before they get to school, at lunchtime, and after school. This is where there's a problem," he said.
He also said so far the decision to close schools is being made on a case-by-case basis.
The new numbers come just a day after the premier announced that Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudieres-Appalaches are officially entering the red zone on the regional alert map. This colour-code change means Quebecers in those regions will have to avoid social gatherings from Oct. 1 to 28 and, during that time, restaurants, bars, theatres, museums, and other such establishments will be closed.
"The government cannot make decisions that will prevent any spread if people don't collaborate," said Legault. "We can break this second wave if we work together."
The Island of Montreal reported 234 of the province's new cases (total 33,418) and Quebec City reported 169 (total 4,003). Monteregie reported 121 (total 10,665), Laval reported 64 (7,082), Outaouais reported 36 (total 1,328), Chaudiere-Appalaches and the Laurentians each reported 25 (total 1,266 and 4,728 respectively), and the Eastern Townships reported 23 (total 1,762).
Recoveries in the province increased by 466 from Monday to Tuesday, bringing the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 to 62,095 -- or 84.5 per cent of cumulative cases.
Quebec reported that it completed analyses of 26,366 COVID-19 tests on Sept. 27 (Quebec reports its daily testing figures from two days prior).