A government health research institute released new projections Wednesday indicating COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec are expected to plateau after weeks of steady declines.
“For the first time since the peak of the fifth wave, which took place in mid-January, projections show a stabilization in the number of new hospitalizations,” the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux said in a statement.
The number of new hospitalizations is projected to remain relatively steady over the next two weeks at around 68 cases daily. The institute is also forecasting a “relative stabilization” in the total number of patients hospitalized and a decrease in intensive care cases.
More than half of regular beds and one-third of intensive care beds used by COVID-19 patients involve people who were admitted for a reason other than the disease and were subsequently declared positive.
Quebec reported six more deaths linked to COVID-19 on Wednesday, with a drop of 30 patients in hospital with the disease. Health authorities said 1,222 people were in hospital after 67 patients were admitted in the previous 24 hours and 97 were discharged. There were 69 patients in intensive care, a decline of eight patients.
Dr. Karl Weiss, an infectious disease specialist at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, said Wednesday the gradual lifting of restrictions in Quebec and elsewhere hasn’t had a major impact on the health system, and it’s time to stop invoking catastrophic scenarios as rules are relaxed.
He told an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal that rather than speaking of future waves of COVID-19, it should be seen as endemic like the flu.
He said the concept of herd immunity doesn’t apply to COVID-19, but exposure to the virus during the Omicron wave coupled with high vaccination numbers in the province means people will contract the virus but be less sick. There will no longer be a need to “shut down society,” as a series of treatments are in the works that will greatly reduce the impact of the disease, he added.
At least 91 per cent of Quebecers aged 18 and older have received one dose of vaccine, while 87 per cent have received two doses and 52 per cent have received a booster. The Health Department reported that 4,942 doses of vaccine were administered on Tuesday, including more than 3,300 boosters shots.
The province’s interim public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, told reporters in late February that nearly three million Quebecers were infected in the last wave of the novel coronavirus.
The majority of the province’s COVID-19 health measures are scheduled to end Saturday, with the exception of masks, which the government has said will not be required in public spaces, except for public transportation, by mid-April at the latest.
Officials reported 1,426 new COVID-19 cases based on PCR testing in its latest data, and they say 9.9 per cent of tests conducted came back positive.
Weiss noted the latest wave highlighted the need to add more flexibility to the Quebec hospital network. It will also be necessary to establish an early warning system, with more widespread screening for the virus and outpatient clinics that would be dedicated solely to the treatment of COVID-19, he said.
Quebec has recorded 14,126 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
— With files from The Canadian Press’ Pierre Saint-Arnaud
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