‘Stay home’: Quebec public health warns against gathering for holidays if sick

Quebec public health director Dr. Luc Boileau responds to a question during a news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s top doctor is once again urging Quebecers to do their part to help limit the spread of viruses during the holiday season.

“If you are sick or have symptoms, then you stay home and avoid contacts with others — in particular the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Luc Boileau.

Boileau made the comments Wednesday during a briefing to provide an update on the evolution of respiratory viruses in the province.

While many viruses are circulating, three viruses continue to preoccupy officials: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19.

While cases of RSV, which mostly affect children, are trending downward the same cannot be said of the flu and COVID-19.

Boileau said we are in the middle of flu season and while cases may have peaked, the number of infections is unlikely to start decreasing in the near future due in part to gatherings during the holidays.

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“We have a positivity rate above 25 per cent,” he said, meaning the virus is circulating and is highly contagious.

Of the three viruses, however, COVID remains the most worrisome.

“It’s a more serious illness,” Boileau said, “it’s more inflammatory and leads to more hospitalizations and more mortality.”

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Health experts are predicting an increase in cases, which would put additional pressure are an already fragile health-care system, hence the warning about limiting gatherings.

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“We’re 10 days away from Christmas Eve so those who develop COVID today will be contagious right up until Christmas Eve,” Boileau said, noting the virus is contagious for 10 days.

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“If you get COVID tomorrow then you don’t go celebrate Christmas, and so on.”

Boileau reiterated that even if a person is experiencing light symptoms, they should avoid gatherings to protect others. The virus remains the same and can affect others differently.

He also recommended those exhibiting symptoms wear a mask if they need to go out to run errands for essential needs.

On Wednesday, Quebec’s health department was reporting more than 2,000 hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 — the highest it’s been since Oct. 19.

Officials say 2,081 people are in hospital with the disease, a rise of 60 from the day before, after 207 people in the past 24 hours were admitted and 147 discharged.

They say 698 patients — about 33 per cent — were admitted because of COVID-19.

Officials say there are 63 people in intensive care with COVID-19, including 36 who are there because of the virus.

The province’s hospital emergency rooms continue to be overwhelmed.

The average occupancy rate on Wednesday was at 130 per cent, according to the Index Santé website.

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Though the situation in Quebec remains fragile, Boileau hinted no new measures would be put in place.

“At public health, we have the responsibility to stop the spread of viruses and to make recommendations, give tips or suggest measures to the government,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

Holiday gatherings were limited or banned by the province in the last two years, with Quebecers ringing in 2022 under a curfew.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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