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COVID-19 – April 17: Cases remain stable in the region; program announced to support agricultural sector

Sarah Rennie and Nadia Geukjian

In a very frank statement issued during his daily address on Friday, Premier François Legault admitted responsibility for the out-of-control situation currently ravaging seniors’ residences and CHSLDs in the province. The premier admitted he should have done more earlier in his government’s mandate to address staff shortages and low wages in the province’s long-term care network. Legault made his comments after having announced a further 58 deaths have been attributed to the COVID-19 virus in the last 24 hours. There are now 16,798 confirmed cases, which is an increase of 941 individuals who have tested positive. Of those, there are 1,076 who have been hospitalized, and increase of 58, with 207 fighting the virus and complications in intensive care.

In Montérégie, there are 1,920 cases, which represents an increase of 113 individuals. There are now 154 in hospital, with 26 in intensive care units. There have been 32 deaths associated with the virus in the region. Of those who passed away, 16 were residents of private seniors’ residences, while 10 were living in CHSLDs. The remaining six were living at home.

Confirmed cases continue to remain stable in the Haut-Saint-Laurent and Hemmingford, with all municipalities reporting fewer than five cases. The total number of cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN) remains the same at 10. The number of cases in the municipality of Valleyfield currently sits at 60, with a total of 92 cases confirmed in the Suroît LHN. There are now 78 cases reported in the municipality of Vaudreuil-Dorion, and 193 positive individuals in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN. The number of cases increased in Chateauguay to 81, to 34 in Mercier and 6 in Sainte-Martine, while the number of cases in the Jardins-Roussillon LHN jumped to 307.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Québec’s public health director, suggested during the press conference that he believes Québecers have successfully flattened the curve and that we have reached a peak. Of course, the same cannot be said for seniors’ residences and CHSLDs, where staff shortages are still a major factor contributing to the crisis. The federal government announced earlier today that they would be sending 125 members of the Canadian Armed Forces qualified in health care to serve in Québec CHSLDs and residences. The Augmented Civilian Care teams will be arriving on the ground as early as tomorrow.

Premier Legault also noted today that 51,957 people had signed up through the recruiting portal “Je Contribue” to propose their services during the outbreak in Québec. A total of 29,345 of those who signed up were contacted and 6,773 individuals were offered positions. Almost 2,100 individuals declined the government offer to work. As such, there are 4,676 people now contributing to this fight. Legault thanks all those who have come forward, and he extended the call once again to sign up through the portal, suggesting they would be going through the list again to find more potential workers.

$45M program announced to help farmers

Beyond encouraging people to work in the health care network, Legault announced a $45 million incentive program to help attract more than 8,000 currently unemployed workers and students to help on Québec farms this summer. The government is expecting that up to a third of expected temporary foreign workers might not arrive this summer, which would place exceptional strain on the province’s food supply. The program will pay those who come work on farms an additional $100 per minimum 25-hour work week. The program also includes funds for transporting worker to farms and necessary training. “I know it is not easy work,” said Legault, “but it would be a beautiful experience for many of you.”

Federal government announces additional help

Trudeau announced help for the oil sector Friday, saying the government would invest $1.7 billion to clean orphan and inactive wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, which will not only provide jobs but will also help meet the government’s environmental goals. Furthermore, a $750 million Emission Reduction Fund will be set up for reducing pollution caused by methane. Of this amount, $75 million will go to the offshore industry to cut emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador. These two initiatives will help maintain an estimated 10,000 jobs.

The prime minister announced two new investments for primarily smaller businesses based in rural communities. A total of $962 million will be given to regional development agencies and the Community Futures Network, while a further $270 Million will go to Futurpreneur to support innovators and other early-stage development firms who did not qualify thus far for the wage subsidy.

Trudeau also announced help for the arts, culture and sport sectors through a $500 million investment to Heritage Canada to support the many artists and athletes who did not qualify for the Canada Emergency Relief Fund (CERB) or the wage subsidy program (CEWS).

So far, $7.5 million in payments have been made to individuals through CERB.

Trudeau concluded by reminding everyone that today marks the 38th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which among other things, gives Canadians a choice of the kind of life they want for themselves. Trudeau said he was grateful that, in this COVID-19 pandemic, “Canadians have chosen to protect each other and care for one another.”

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