COVID-19 live updates: Once Canada’s epicentre, Quebec now reporting fewer new cases than four other provinces

Quebec reports 561 new cases, fewest since September. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to fall.

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Updated throughout the day on Tuesday, March 16. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com


Top updates

  • Quebec reports 561 new cases, fewest since September
  • Province ordered use of N95 masks for health workers 10 months after expert recommendation
  • Half of Canadians want first COVID-19 vaccine available, poll suggests
  • Once Canada’s epicentre, Quebec now reporting fewer cases, per capita, than four other provinces
  • CAQ government boasts about being first to authorize AstraZeneca for people 65 and older
  • Montreal red-zone curfew to be pushed to 9:30 p.m., reports say
  • Teachers’ union seeks injunction forcing better classroom ventilation plan
  • No reason to fear AstraZeneca vaccine, Montreal experts say
  • Inside the COVID-19 hot zone at Verdun Hospital
  • Everything you need to know about getting COVID-19 vaccinations in Montreal
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

4:25 p.m.

Be COVID-19 smart on St. Patrick’s Day, officials urge; some tighten restrictions

From The Canadian Press:

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Officials across Canada are relying on common sense and added restrictions in some cases rather than on the traditional luck of the Irish to keep St. Patrick’s Day from becoming a COVID-19 super-spreader event.

Amid worries about a third pandemic wave, health authorities are urging would-be celebrants to be mindful of the risks and obey all limits on social gatherings.

The city of Kingston, Ont., for example, home to Queen’s University, has made live music off-limits. The order, which is in place until the end of the week, bars all social gatherings of more than five people and, among other things, limits the sale and service of alcohol.

British Columbia has ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 8 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, putting a damper in what would typically be a huge night for them.

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Some areas, like Manitoba, said they would be relying on existing measures to curb alcohol-fuelled gatherings that could hurt efforts to contain the pandemic.

Bylaw officers in Ottawa, where limits on gatherings and alcohol serving were already in place, were also planning to step up enforcement.

In Atlantic Canada, pubs will be closed or have limited seating, while those in Prince Edward Island will have to obey strict attendance limits, including a ban on mixing and mingling.


4:05 p.m.

On vaccines, Quebec is ‘setting the tone for rest of Canada,’ Dubé says

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2:55 p.m.

Organizers ask for free testing for kids and staff to keep Ontario summer camps open

On Monday, we reported on a group of doctors that is asking Quebec to permit the reopening of sleepaway camps this summer.

Here’s what’s happening in Ontario, via The Canadian Press:

Free COVID-19 testing for children and staff could help keep Ontario camps open this summer while the pandemic drags on, organizers say.

Day camps in Ontario were allowed to open with COVID-19 restrictions last year, while overnight camps were ordered to close throughout the summer.

With plans to welcome campers again this year, a group for Ontario camps said COVID-19 testing, along with other safety measures, is key to ensure the safety of campers and staff.

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“Much more progress is needed to secure a testing program,” said Jack Goodman, the owner of Camp New Moon in Baysville, Ont.

“Testing needs to be equally accessible regardless of the socio-economic status of camps or the children they serve.”

Goodman leads the Ontario Camps Association’s COVID-19 task force and has been working with public health and government officials to create guidelines for the camp season.

The group wishes to secure the government’s support for a universal testing program for all campers and staff, regardless of a camp’s financial resources, he said.

Testing for day camps would be slightly different from overnight camps, he said, noting that day camps would likely need random asymptomatic antigen testing.

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2:50 p.m.

Villa Maria high school moves to distance learning due to variants

Montreal’s Villa Maria high school has decided to move all its students to distance learning over concerns about variants detected in the school.

In a letter sent to parents, the private Notre-Dame-de-Grâce high school said its administration recently learned “two new persons have tested positive for COVID-19 and that these cases involved variants.”

Read our full story, by Jesse Feith.


2:45 p.m.

Quebec politicians start getting vaccinated, say they want to set example

A first batch of Quebec MNAs have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and the list is growing.

Read our full story, by Philip Authier.


2:30 p.m.

Medicago’s made-in-Quebec vaccine moves into Phase 3 clinical trials

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2:10 p.m.

Aislin

Editorial cartoon for March 17, 2021.
Editorial cartoon for March 17, 2021. Photo by Aislin

2 p.m.

Confirmed variant cases jump by 179 in Quebec

Following up on my earlier coverage of Quebec’s variant update, here’s our full story, by Aaron Derfel.


1:50 p.m.

Opposition parties back Quebec’s plan to keep using AstraZeneca vaccine, Dubé says

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1:45 p.m.

Plante visits Big O vaccination clinic

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1:30 p.m.

Mission Impossible

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12:25 p.m.

Canada starts recommending AstraZeneca vaccine for use on seniors

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says there is now enough “real-world evidence” to show the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors.

The decision reverses a recommendation made by the body two weeks ago when the panel of vaccine experts said AstraZeneca hadn’t included enough people over the age of 65 in its clinical trials. As such, NACI didn’t recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine be used on seniors, and instead said they should be given either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Moderna.

Most provinces, with the notable exception of Quebec, heeded NACI’s previous advice and set aside the AstraZeneca vaccine for younger populations.

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Read our full story.


12:10 p.m.

The truth about Vitamin D and COVID-19

“You will, if you wade through the morass of misinformation on the internet, find many posts and videos advocating for zinc, Vitamin C or Vitamin D as COVID cures. They promise to simultaneously prevent infections, cure the disease, save lives and thereby make lockdowns and vaccines unnecessary.

“These claims are, to put it bluntly, wrong. Central to these vitamin and supplement theories is the notion that doctors are either unaware of their benefits or so far corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry that they are deliberately ignoring their obvious benefits.”

Read the latest column by Christopher Labos, a Montreal physician.


Noon

Federal health officials, minister provide pandemic update

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11:55 a.m.

La Jabconda

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11:20 a.m.

Quebec adds 179 confirmed variant cases


11:10 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:10 a.m.

Quebec has received more than 1M vaccine doses


11:05 a.m.

Quebec reports 561 new cases, fewest since September

Quebec has recorded 561 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

That’s the lowest one-day case count since Sept. 23.

Hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions continue to decline.

The number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is at its lowest point since Nov. 8. And not since Nov. 27 has Quebec had so few people in intensive care units.

In addition, eight new deaths were reported, including three over the previous 24 hours.

Among the other deaths, three occurred between March 9 and 14, and two occurred on unknown dates.

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Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update, published this morning:

  • Montreal Island: 245 new cases, 6 deaths.
  • 20 fewer people are in hospital. Total hospitalizations: 533.
  • 5 fewer people are in intensive care. Total in ICU: 91.
  • 28,861 additional vaccine doses were administered, bringing the total to 774,600. The province has now received more than 1 million doses.
  • On Sunday, Quebec conducted 18,784 tests. That’s the last day for which screening data is available.
  • The positivity rate is 3.2 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 298,747 cases and 10,558 deaths linked to COVID-19. A total of 281,436 people who have contracted the disease have since recovered.

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10:40 a.m.

Video: What’s it like on the pandemic front lines at Verdun Hospital?

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10:30 a.m.

Quebec ordered use of N95 masks for health workers 10 months after expert recommendation

Newly released documents show that the Quebec government waited 10 months before acting on an expert recommendation that all health-care workers dealing with hospitalized COVID-19 patients be equipped with N95 masks, whose use at one point was forbidden except for specific medical procedures.

Read our full story.


10:30 a.m.

Half of Canadians want first COVID-19 vaccine available, poll suggests

A new poll suggests about half of Canadians are willing to get immunized against COVID-19 with the first vaccine they’re offered, while one quarter would be willing to wait to get a shot they’d prefer.

Fifty-one per cent of respondents to the online survey by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they will take whichever of the four COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada they can get first.

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Read our full story.


10 a.m.

Once Canada’s epicentre, Quebec now reporting fewer cases, per capita, than four other provinces

Over the past week, Quebec has reported 58 cases per 100,000 people.

Four provinces have had higher case growth – Saskatchewan (78), British Columbia (74), Ontario (64) and Alberta (60).

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


9:45 a.m.

CAQ government boasts about being first to authorize AstraZeneca for people 65 and older

Spokespeople for Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé took to Twitter this morning to boast that the Coalition Avenir Québec government authorized AstraZeneca for people 65 and older before a federal committee did the same.

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“Once again, Quebec stands out and got it right from the start,” Ewan Sauves, Legault’s press attaché, tweeted.

“Once again, Quebec public health got it right,” wrote Marjaurie Côté-Boileau, Dubé’s press attaché.

On Monday, the CAQ made headlines by boasting on social media about the Legault government’s handling of the pandemic.

In a column this morning, Le Devoir’s Michel David wonders “whether the popularity that the (CAQ) government has maintained after such a trying year has not gone to the heads of some, when the toll of the pandemic should rather encourage modesty. It is to be hoped that Mr. Legault himself will keep both feet on the ground. It is true that the opposition does not seem very threatening, but arrogance is a bad thing, which voters sometimes feel the need to punish when it becomes too obvious.”

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9:30 a.m.

Montreal Red zone curfew to be pushed to 9:30 p.m., reports say

A suggestion on Monday by Premier François Legault that Montreal’s Red zone curfew of 8 p.m. will be pushed to as late as 9:30 p.m. seems on the verge of becoming official policy, according to news reports Tuesday morning.

Read our full story.


9:30 a.m.

Teachers’ union seeks injunction forcing better classroom ventilation plan

A teachers’ union asked a judge to rule Monday on an injunction to force the Quebec government to put together a better plan to improve ventilation in the province’s classrooms. It’s an urgent matter, the union says, particularly after the arrival of variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read our full story.

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9:30 a.m.

No reason to fear AstraZeneca vaccine, Montreal experts say

There is no reason to avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, even if a slew of European countries have suspended its use, two Montreal experts say.

Germany, France and Italy are the latest countries to put injections of the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold temporarily after reports of blood clots in people who had received injections from two batches produced in Europe.

But Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre, said the number of reports is so small, there is no reason to conclude the vaccine was responsible.

Read our full story, by Marian Scott.


9:30 a.m.

Inside the COVID-19 hot zone at Verdun Hospital

To show what it’s like to work where the disease lives, the regional health authority granted access to the Montreal Gazette to wards in the Verdun Hospital that treat COVID-19 patients, including a COVID “hot zone” with 37 beds for infected patients.

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Read our full story, by René Bruemmer.


9:30 a.m.

Medical staff not at fault at CHSLD Herron last March, inquiry finds

A joint inquiry by Quebec’s College of Physicians and Order of Nurses into the tragedy at the Herron long-term care centre last March has absolved the staff of responsibility for the neglect of the residents, concluding that the elderly were not abandoned during a COVID-19 outbreak.

Read our full story, by Aaron Derfel.


9:15 a.m.

Everything you need to know about getting COVID-19 vaccinations in Montreal

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.

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.

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Wondering if the vaccines are safe? Once vaccinated, can you disregard public health measures? Is vaccination mandatory? Read our FAQ, by Jason Magder.

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9:15 a.m.

Here’s where Montrealers can get tested today

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

You can check screening clinic wait times here.


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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