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MONTREAL -- Quebec's premier is repeating a refrain by the health minister in recent days as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to worry officials.
"My message is clear and simple today. Please stay home," said Francois Legault in an afternoon press briefing. "You can go to school or to work but otherwise, please stay home."
Quebec health authorities reported 900 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 81,914.
Wednesday's update is the first time the province has reported fewer than 1,000 cases of the diseases in a week.
The province is also reporting seven more deaths linked to the disease. One of them took place in the past 24 hours, four are from between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 and two are from an unknown date, for a total of 5,906 since the start of the pandemic.
Two of the latest deaths took place in Bas Saint Laurent, two in Quebec City, two in Gaspe and one Chaudiere-Appalaches.
RISING HOSPITALIZATIONS COULD LEAD TO CANCELLED SURGERIES
It's the increase in hospitalizations that is drawing notable concern for officials.
As of Wednesday, there are 409 people receiving care for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals, which is an increase in 12 from the number reported on Tuesday. Of them, 62 are in the intensive care ward, which is five less than the number reported 24 hours earlier.
Legault said the hospitalizations are worrying because they have doubled in two weeks. At this rate, Quebec will see 1,600 new hospitalizations within a month, a scenario that will render the health network very fragile, he said.
If cases continue to double every week, there's a risk the province's health-care system won't be able to treat everyone who needs to see a doctor and major surgeries could be postponed, he said.
"Our health system is already fragile. If we continue in the same way, there's a risk that we won't be able to protect every Quebecer who needs it." he said. "My objective is not to be popular, my objective is to save the health care network."
Dube said the goal is to maintain the weekly average of 1,000 cases per day in the coming weeks and then reduce those numbers.
"My greatest wish over the next few days, would be to see over the next few days, a stabilizing of our cases," said Dube "The best thing we can do for our health professionals is show that we respect them."
Recoveries increased by 702 from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to health officials. The total number of people who have recovered from the virus in the province now stands at 67,735 -- or 82.7 per cent of Quebec's cases.
Quebec reported that it completed analyses of 24,399 COVID-19 tests on Oct. 5 (Quebec reports its daily testing figures from two days prior).
Montreal reported the bulk of the province's newest cases, with 269 (total 36,207), Quebec City reported the second-most, with 132 (total 5,392), and Monteregie reported the third-most, with 111 (total 11,735). After reporting an increase of just six cases on Tuesday, the Eastern Townships reported 23 more on Wednesday (total 1,925), and Outaouais reported an increase of 49 (total 1,629). Chaudiere-Appalaches reported 73 more cases on Wednesday (total 1,809), Laval reported 64 (total 7,843) and the Laurentians, 49 (total 5,191).
CONTACT TRACING REMAINS A CHALLENGE
Legault said that while some large cities in the United States have comparable death rates to Montreal, others, such as Boston and New York City, have higher rates. Toronto, however, stands out from the other large cities on the continent, with significantly fewer deaths, he said.
While Quebec has shut bars and restaurant dining rooms, Ontario, which has fewer restrictions, continues to report fewer infections than Quebec.
Arruda said there are a number of different factors that could be having an effect. Polling for instance, suggests Quebecers may have been less compliant with instructions from public health officials, he said.
Dube said Quebec has improved some elements of its COVID-19 response, including its testing program, adding that there's still room for improvement when it comes to contact tracing.
If people continue to not pick up the phone when called by a contact tracer, they risk spreading the virus without it knowing it, he said.
- With files from Jacob Serebrin of The Canadian Press