Quebec is seeing a rise in COVID-19 indicators as the fall season begins, but the province’s top doctor stopped short of declaring a new wave of the pandemic, saying it was too early to do so Thursday.
Luc Boileau, director of Quebec public health, said “it’s not a surprise” that cases and hospitalizations are on the upswing since the start of the school year and end of summer vacation for adults. But he said transmission of the novel coronavirus in schools has been “very weak” since students returned to class for the fall semester, adding that no more than 6,000 infections have so far been reported in schools.
Wastewater levels, which the province uses as a screening tool to detect trends in the evolution of the health crisis, also indicate that COVID-19 is on the rise, he added.
“Will it be a new wave, a big wave?” Boileau said. “We’ll have to wait a couple of days or weeks to see how it goes on.”
Quebec reported 1,037 new cases and eight deaths related to the novel coronavirus Thursday. Hospitalizations increased by 44 for a total of 1,663. Of those patients, 514 were hospitalized primarily for the virus.
Meanwhile, 3,861 workers are off the job for pandemic-related reasons — including preventive isolation and awaiting test results.
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Boileau said that in response to the rise in COVID-19 indicators, the province is making the influenza vaccine available earlier than usual so that vulnerable residents can be protected against both viruses.
As of Oct. 5, seniors and other at-risk residents can access the influenza vaccine for free at clinics and pharmacies and can obtain a shot at the same time as their COVID-19 vaccination.
“Influenza, like many other viruses, is not something we should take lightly,” Boileau said. “There are many people who have had a rough case of the flu and who have suffered, and every year, many of them die. It’s a serious illness.”
The province’s public health research institute is projecting that new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations will continue to rise over the next two weeks.
The Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux’s latest modelling shows the number of daily hospitalizations is expected to rise to 125. The number of patients with COVID in hospitals will also increase to about 1,770.
While Boileau said it appears Quebec is “en route” to an uptick, the public health department isn’t planning on recommending new restrictions. Instead, he encouraged people to get vaccinated and to take other precautions, such as wearing a mask.
“We’re not expecting, even with that, to add some public health measures,” he said. “We have vaccination, which is of course the best thing we can do.”
— with files from The Canadian Press