COVID-19 live updates: Hospitalizations jump as Quebec reports 720 new cases, 2 deaths

Province has suspended 329 unvaxxed health workers who won’t get tested. Health Canada to approve Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 on Friday: reports.

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Updated throughout the day on Thursday, Nov. 18. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Ontario students will be sent home with rapid COVID-19 tests for winter break
  • How to prepare your child for their COVID-19 vaccines
  • 1 in 10 Montreal children and youth have contracted COVID-19, study finds
  • Germany to restrict the unvaccinated to stem record COVID-19 surge
  • Quebecers 75 and older can book booster-shot appointments as of today
  • Reader mailbag: Why aren’t kids required to wear masks in public places?
  • Photos: Karaoke returns to Montreal bars
  • Coroner should call Legault to testify at inquest into CHLSD deaths, Liberals say
  • Inquest: McCann defends decision to transfer patients into CHSLDs during first wave
  • Hospitalizations jump as Quebec reports 720 new cases, 2 deaths
  • Quebec has suspended 329 unvaxxed health workers who won’t get tested
  • Health Canada to approve Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 on Friday: reports
  • Families denounce ‘horrific’ conditions at N.D.G. long-term care facility
  • With better awareness of aerosols, mask-wearing shouldn’t end soon, experts say
  • A guide to Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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2:40 p.m.

Ontario students will be sent home with rapid COVID-19 tests for winter break

Ontario students will be sent home for the December break with five rapid antigen COVID-19 tests each as part of the province’s plan to ramp up testing over the holidays, The Canadian Press reports.

Details of the plan to distribute 11 million tests over the next month were announced on Thursday.

Tests will go to all publicly funded schools and officials said offers have been made to First Nations schools.

Those who choose to participate in the voluntary program will be instructed to take tests every three to four days over the holiday break beginning Dec. 23.

Officials said more information is to come about how students can record their results, but participation won’t be a requirement to return to school in January.

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The provincial government spent $50 million to procure the tests.

The government is also planning pop-up testing clinics in high-traffic public spaces like malls, holiday markets and retail stores so people can be tested during the busy holiday season.

Locations are being finalized and officials said they will be determined by looking at areas deemed high risk, based on lower vaccination rates and higher rates of transmission and hospitalization from the illness. Selected settings will be places where proof of vaccination isn’t currently required.


2:05 p.m.

How to prepare your child for their COVID-19 vaccines

Preparing young children for vaccination — all vaccinations, not just for COVID-19 — can be done in three stages, starting in the days before the shot, an advance practice nurse at the Montreal Children’s Hospital says.

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Read our full story, by Hayley Juhl.


1:50 p.m.

1 in 10 Montreal children and youth have contracted COVID-19, study finds

Between May and August, 9.7 per cent of Montreal children and teenagers had antibodies due to a COVID-19 infection, according to a study published today by a team of researchers led by Montreal epidemiologist Kate Zinszer.

That’s an increase from the 5.8 per cent observed between October 2020 and March 2021.

“Geographical differences in positive cases were noted, with the lowest seroprevalence recorded in West Island (6.1 per cent), the highest socioeconomic area studied,” the researchers said in a press release.

“The highest seroprevalence (was) in Montreal North (15.1 per cent), the area with the lowest socioeconomic status.”

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The results are from an ongoing Encore study , described as “a collaborative research project between the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine which will estimate SARS-CoV-2 infections (the virus that causes COVID-19) in children aged two to 17, and in school and daycare personnel.”

Zinszer is an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the Université de Montréal and a researcher at the Centre for Public Health Research.

The study also found that the antibodies due to a COVID-19 infection in children and youth wane.

The study found that 5.3 per cent of study participants who had detectable antibodies at one point no longer had detectable antibodies a few weeks or months after infection.

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“Although antibodies are not the only measure of protection against infection, this may suggest these children and adolescents no longer have enough protection to ward off reinfection,” the researchers said. “Vaccines provide an increase in immunity that promise to ensure children are protected.”

Thirteen-year-old Anna, seated, caught up with friends on her phone while waiting in line at the Bill Durnan Arena for a COVID-19 vaccination on May 23, 2021.
Thirteen-year-old Anna, seated, caught up with friends on her phone while waiting in line at the Bill Durnan Arena for a COVID-19 vaccination on May 23, 2021. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

1:20 p.m.

Germany to restrict the unvaccinated to stem record COVID-19 surge

From the Bloomberg news service:

Germany will restrict access to restaurants, bars and public events for unvaccinated people in regions that exceed a threshold of COVID-19 hospital admissions while stopping short of a nationwide lockdown, Chancellor Angela Merkel said today.

Merkel and German regional leaders agreed on several measures, with restrictions increasing by region as hospitals fill up with patients, in response to what she called the fourth wave of the pandemic to strike Germany.

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Only people who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 infections will have access to leisure, cultural and sports events, gastronomy, hospitality and services such as gyms, according to the agreement presented on Thursday. The measures kick in above a certain level of hospitalizations as a share of a region’s population.

The officials also agreed to resume free COVID-19 tests, which were suspended during a relative lull in new cases.

Germany, which is Europe’s biggest economy, reported more than 65,000 infections in a day for the first time Thursday and hospitals faced with stretched intensive-care units are sounding the alarm.

The measures, which include a requirement for employers to let employees work from home, replace emergency powers that will expire on Nov. 25.

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12:25 p.m.

Quebecers 75 and older can book booster-shot appointments as of today

As of today, Quebecers aged 75 and older can book appointments for a booster vaccine shot.

Last week, the province announced it will offer a third vaccine dose to everyone 70 and older in November, beginning with the 80-plus age group two days ago. People who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will also be eligible for boosters this month.

Six months must have elapsed since the second dose.

Appointments can be booked online by selecting “COVID-19 Vaccine – 3rd dose” on the Clic Santé platform.

Appointment schedule for booster doses:

  • Nov. 16: 80 and over
  • Nov. 18: 75 and over
  • Nov. 23: 70 and over
  • Nov. 25: People who have received two doses of AstraZeneca or Covishield.

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12:15 p.m.

Most Conservative MPs vaccinated, but those who aren’t should do it, Deltell says

From The Canadian Press:

Opposition House leader Gerard Deltell says any Conservative colleagues who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 should roll up their sleeves.

Starting Nov. 22, those wishing to access buildings in the parliamentary precinct, including elected members, will need to be fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

The Conservatives are the only party with seats in the House that has so far refused to confirm how many of its members are fully immunized against COVID-19.

Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole didn’t make vaccination a condition for candidacy in the recent federal election and says he respects the rights of individuals to make their own health choices and to keep that information private.

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Deltell says he believes the majority of the Conservative’s 119 MPs are immunized and hopes “that everybody will get vaccinated to sit in the House of Commons.”

“If they want to attend the House of Commons, which is their duty, they have to be vaccinated,” he told reporters before entering the party’s national caucus meeting Thursday.

O’Toole has said any MP he’s tapped to take on a critic role will be ready to appear in the House of Commons. An analysis by The Canadian Press shows at least 82 Conservatives, including O’Toole, say they have been double vaccinated.

At least four, including Ontario representative Leslyn Lewis, say they don’t disclose their vaccination status as a principle, and two others say they can’t be immunized for medical reasons.

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11:55 a.m.

Reader mailbag: Why aren’t kids required to wear masks in public places?

Masks are mandatory in elementary schools.  But on public transit and in enclosed and partially enclosed public places, masks are only required for people age 10 and older.

A reader wonders why:

I’m a long-time reader of your COVID-19 updates, and I have a question for you.

Today, I went to see a kid’s movie, and I was shocked that many school-age kids weren’t wearing masks.  I was told that kids under 10 are exempt from the public mask mandate in Quebec, but I was skeptical.  I did my research, and I was surprised that this is indeed true. 

Also, I discovered that there is indeed a mask mandate in elementary schools in Quebec for those kids, but not in public places for them.

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How is it possible that kids under 10 with a vaccination rate of almost zero per cent are allowed in public spaces maskless, possibly infecting the others (with a 90-per-cent vaccination rate) who are still required to wear masks almost at all times in public (except when eating)?

If kids under 10 must wear masks in elementary schools all day, and they are safely capable of doing it, why isn’t this extended to all public spaces for them, to protect the general public?

Sorry if this is old news, but since I don’t have kids, I’m just finding this out now and was wondering if this matter ever seriously came up before for debate.

This issue has seriously disturbed me.

Keep up the good daily update work.


11:45 a.m.

Photos: Karaoke returns to Montreal bars

Montrealers are belting out tunes in bars again after Quebec lifted the ban on karaoke on Monday.

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Gazette photographer John Mahoney was on hand last night to document karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Ste-Catherine St. in downtown Montreal.

No face covering is required for karaoke singers if they keep two metres from others or are behind a physical barrier, according to Quebec’s pandemic restrictions.

Mario Blondin stands behind a clear plastic barrier while singing a Mötley Crüe song on karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Nov. 17, 2021.
Mario Blondin stands behind a clear plastic barrier while singing a Mötley Crüe song on karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Nov. 17, 2021. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette
Caleigh Hammer sings a Joan Jett song on karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Nov. 17, 2021.
Caleigh Hammer sings a Joan Jett song on karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Nov. 17, 2021. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette
Bartender Justyn Vynn sings a Kiss song on karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Nov. 17, 2021.
Bartender Justyn Vynn sings a Kiss song on karaoke night at Piranha Bar on Nov. 17, 2021. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

11:35 a.m.

Canada, Mexico to donate millions of vaccine doses from U.S. in promise to ‘pay those forward’

Canada and Mexico will redistribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses they received from the United States to other Western Hemisphere countries as a part of today’s revived Three Amigos leaders’ summit.

Read our full story.


11:30 a.m.

Coroner should call Legault to testify at inquiry on CHLSD deaths, Liberals say

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11:25 a.m.

Coroner’s inquest: McCann defends decision to transfer patients into CHSLDs during first wave

There was no massive transfer of patients out of hospitals into Quebec’s already strapped long term care homes (CHSLDs), former Quebec health minister Danielle McCann told an inquest into the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday.

Fewer than 1,000 hospital patients were bumped into the network in March 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, McCann said.

Read our full story, by Philip Authier.


11:15 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:15 a.m.

Update on Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:05 a.m.

Hospitalizations jump as Quebec reports 720 new cases, 2 deaths

Quebec has recorded 720 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

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It’s the second consecutive day with more than 700 infections.

The seven-day rolling average is now 647 – the highest since September.

In addition, two new deaths were reported.

Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:

  • Montreal Island: 229 cases, zero deaths.
  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 10, for total of 205 (20 entered hospital, 10 discharged).
  • Net decrease in intensive care patients: 1, for total of 46 (2 entered ICUs, 3 discharged).
  • 11,094 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
  • 31,125 tests conducted Tuesday.
  • Positivity rate: 2.1 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 436,804 cases and 11,550 deaths linked to COVID-19.


10:35 a.m.

Austria’s focus shifts to full lockdown as COVID-19 cases keep rising

From the Reuters news agency:

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Pressure on Austria’s government to impose a full COVID-19 lockdown grew on Thursday as its worst-hit provinces said they would adopt the measure for themselves since infections are still rising despite the current lockdown for the unvaccinated.

Roughly 66 per cent of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Its infections are among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people.

As winter approaches, cases have surged across Europe, prompting governments to consider reimposing unpopular lockdowns. The Netherlands has imposed a partial lockdown that applies to all, but Austria has sought not to impose extra restrictions on the fully vaccinated.

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“We have very, very little room for maneuver,” the conservative governor of Upper Austria, Thomas Stelzer, told the province’s parliament, referring to its strained intensive-care units.

Upper Austria, a stronghold of the far-right and vaccine-criticizing Freedom Party, has the country’s highest infection rate and its lowest vaccination rate. It and neighbouring Salzburg are the hardest-hit of Austria’s nine provinces. Both border Germany.

“If no national lockdown is ordered tomorrow, there will definitely have to be a lockdown of several weeks in Upper Austria together with our neighboring province Salzburg as of next week,” Stelzer said.

The conservative-led provincial government of Salzburg, which this week said it was preparing for a possible triage situation in which the number of people needing intensive-care beds exceeds supply, confirmed in a statement that it is planning a joint lockdown with Upper Austria.

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10 a.m.

Quebec has suspended 329 unvaxxed health workers who won’t get tested

As of Nov. 16, a total of 329 unvaccinated Quebec health workers have been suspended after refusing to get tested.

That’s an increase of 131 compared to the previous week.

Unvaccinated health employees must get tested at least three times per week. They must do so on their own time but at government expense.

Quebec initially planned to suspend without pay all health workers who did not get vaccinated against COVID-19.

But with the deadline looming and thousands of employees still refusing the jab,  Dubé backed down on that threat  , saying suspensions would have paralyzed the province’s health network.

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9:45 a.m.

Health Canada to approve Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 on Friday: reports

Health Canada is set to approve the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 on Friday, several media outlets are reporting.


9:30 a.m.

Families denounce ‘horrific’ conditions at N.D.G. long-term care facility

As a public inquiry exposes the horrors at the Herron long-term care facility in Dorval during the first wave of COVID-19, family members of residents at a privately run, government-funded facility in N.D.G. say the nightmare is not just about one facility, and it’s ongoing.

They are denouncing what they call “inhumane” living conditions at the CHSLD Vigi Reine-Elizabeth. Several family members and an employee told the Montreal Gazette the facility is chronically understaffed, plagued with bedbugs, cockroaches, mould and equipment shortages.

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A recent outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility has only aggravated the situation, family members say. A case was declared on Oct. 31 and the virus quickly spread to 12 other residents. One resident has died.

Instead of creating “hot” and “cold” zones in the residence to isolate those with COVID from those not infected, residents on the affected floors have been confined to their rooms since Oct. 31.

Read our full story, by Michelle Lalonde.

Nanci Lee, left to right, Jim Dunlop, Artemis Papert, Marietta Lubelsky, Mary Dunlop and Mary Pallett outside the CHSLD Vigi Reine-Elizabeth on Wednesday.
Nanci Lee, left to right, Jim Dunlop, Artemis Papert, Marietta Lubelsky, Mary Dunlop and Mary Pallett outside the CHSLD Vigi Reine-Elizabeth on Wednesday. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

9:30 a.m.

With better awareness of aerosols, mask-wearing shouldn’t end soon, experts say

Public health experts in Quebec say an increased emphasis on the role of aerosol transmission should affect decisions about what type of masks should be worn at work, how indoor spaces are ventilated, and whether Plexiglas and social distancing are having much of an effect at all.

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Read our full story, by René Bruemmer.


9:15 a.m.

The situation across Canada

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


9:15 a.m.

A guide to Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport

Quebec’s vaccine passport is mandatory for people 13 and older who want to access services and activities deemed non-essential by the provincial government, including bars, restaurants, gyms, festivals and sporting events.

Quebecers can use a smartphone app to prove their vaccination status or simply carry their QR code on paper.

The app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play .

We have published two guides to the passports – one looks at how to download and set up the app , and another answers key questions about the system, including how, when and why.

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You can find more information on the Quebec government’s website – one page has details on how the system works, and another has a list of the places where a vaccine passport will be required .

Thomas Resendes, right, scans a QR code from client Jasmin Lauriere, at a Cora restaurant in downtown Montreal on Sept. 1, the first day that restaurants had to ask for the vaccine passport.
Thomas Resendes, right, scans a QR code from client Jasmin Lauriere, at a Cora restaurant in downtown Montreal on Sept. 1, the first day that restaurants had to ask for the vaccine passport. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

9:15 a.m.

A guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in Quebec

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.

Quebecers can also visit walk-in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccine clinics .

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.


9:15 a.m.

Here are the current pandemic restrictions in Montreal and Quebec

We are regularly updating our list of what services are open, closed or modified in Montreal and Quebec, including information on the curfew and other lockdown measures.

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You can read it here.


9:15 a.m.

Here’s where Montrealers can get tested today

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

For other parts of Quebec, check out this page on the Quebec government’s site .


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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