MONTREAL -- As the province prepares for another lockdown, Quebec reported Thursday that 2,349 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, a new daily record that brings the total number of positive cases to 185,872 since the start of the pandemic. 

It is the fifth time the daily record has been broken in six days.

The Quebec Institute of Public Health reports that there are 19,758 active novel coronavirus cases, and that  1,926 more people have recovered from the disease bringing that total to 158,201.

In addition, the province added 46 deaths due to the disease including 13 in the past 24 hours, 29 between Dec. 17 and Dec. 22, and two occurred before Dec. 17 and two were reported at an unknown date. 

The total number of people who have died due to the novel coronavirus is now 7,913 since the start of the pandemic.

The province reports that it gave out 3,942 doses of vaccine Wednesday for a total of 11,171.

Hospitalizations decreased in the province with 15 fewer people receiving care in Quebec hospitals than on Wednesday for a total of 1,052. Of those, 146 are in the intensive care ward, an increase of four. 

On Christmas Day, all businesses deemed "non-essential" by the government will be forced to close across the province in an effort to reduce transmission and alleviate pressure on the health-care system. Schools closed on Dec. 17 and won't reopen until at least Monday, Jan. 11.

For most of the province, in-person dining, bars, gyms and entertainment venues have been closed since October.

On Wednesday, the Montreal Children's Hospital said it was accepting adult patients in its intensive care unit to free up space at other hospitals dealing with COVID-19. The hospital said it was caring for 11 adult post-op patients and said other adults had been admitted to its pediatric intensive care unit.

Dr. Robert Barnes, associate director of professional services at the Children's, said the hospital is happy to help. "Our adult colleagues are running full tilt, and relocating staff significantly, to care for so many sick adults," he said in a statement.

"The pandemic is not letting up, just like during the first wave in the spring, we at the Children's want to contribute to the cause as best we can."

At many hospitals, ICUs are increasing their staff to deal with an influx of patients.

"For holidays we have to do more calls, we won't be able to spend a lot of time with our families because we have to work," said Quebec Society of Intensive Care Doctors president Germain Poirier. "Instead of coming in the ICU with two or three doctors, we're going to have to be four."

At the Lakeshore General, the regional health authority said surgical beds are being used to treat some of the hospital's 60 COVID patients. Poirier warned the situation could continue to deteriorate in the weeks following Christmas.

"We're planning to open more beds after the holidays and the situation could be worse if the population is not respecting what the government is saying," he said. 

Health-care professionals analyzed 40,358 samples Dec. 24. (Quebec releases its testing data from two days prior to its daily updates).

-- with files from The Canadian Press.