COVID-19 in Quebec: Public health emergency extended, crises continue in seniors’ homes

  • Quebec has 14,860 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A total of 487 people have died. There are 984 people in hospital, including 218 in intensive care — 12 fewer than Tuesday. Here’s a guide to the numbers.
  • The province has extended its declaration of a public health emergency until April 24.
  • Premier François Legault is appealing to people with health-care experience to help in the province’s care homes.
  • Experts say there are risks and benefits to opening schools in Quebec earlier rather than later.
  • Montreal is giving $50,000 loans to 1,000 small businesses in the city.

It has already been a month since Quebec first declared a public health emergency and the government has now extended it until April 24. 

The emergency declaration (it’s not a state of emergency) gives more power to Health Minister Danielle McCann and allows the government to, for example, ban gatherings and restrict access to different regions in the province. 

It was first issued March 29 until April 16. Wednesday evening, the provincial government renewed it. 

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Quebec is expected to peak (or at least, plateau) this weekend, according to public health forecasts. 

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, says the curve is already beginning to flatten, indicating physical distancing measures are working. 

The positive outlook even prompted Legault to suggest sending children back to school and daycare sooner than later. Experts say there are risks and benefits to such a move.

It’s a different story inside long-term care homes, where staff continue to decry working conditions as the number of COVID-19 cases among them rises, and fewers of their colleagues come to work. 

Premier François Legault says staff shortages have long afflicted the homes, both in private and public institutions. So losing dozens of nurses and personal support workers each to sick leaves and quarantines, has paralyzed many of the homes. 

He said there is a shortfall of about 2,000 workers.

Families are feeling despair as they struggle to reach their loved ones in the homes, and found out how they are doing. 

Specialist doctors say they haven’t been told where to help

Wednesday, Legault made a call to specialist doctors to help in the homes. He noted that many of those doctors have found themselves freed up by cancelled surgeries and non-emergency procedures. 

Legault’s ask raised eyebrows, as the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists says it’s been offering its help to the government for weeks.

The federation’s president, Dr. Diane Francoeur, says the province wasn’t clear what it wanted the doctors to do the first time it asked, and that it still hasn’t told them where to go.

Legault says he wants them to support nurses and orderlies in CHSLDs. Whatever their tasks will be, they would be paid about $211 per hour. 

A resident cries as she speaks to her son on the sidewalk at the Residence Floralies Lasalle. Eighteen of the residents have died in the last three weeks. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Montreal will advance $50K loans to small businesses

Meanwhile, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says the city is in good financial shape and won’t be raising taxes any time soon. The city posted a $250-million budget surplus in 2019, Plante said.

The city announced Wednesday it will advance loans of up to $50,000 to as many as 1,000 businesses hard hit by the pandemic in the next two weeks, while it waits for $40 million promised by the Quebec government.

Businesses will not have to pay back the principal on those loans for the first six months, said Coun. Luc Rabouin, the city’s executive committee member in charge of economic development.

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