Sarah Rennie and Nadia Geukjian
Quebec Premier François Legault pleaded with workers in the health and long-term care networks to return to work during his daily address on Thursday. Acknowledging the situation in seniors’ residences and CHSLDs was still dire, he said there were currently 9,500 health-care workers absent from the job, 4,000 of whom have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. “We need you,” said Legault, calling on the 5,500 presumably healthy workers who are not coming into work. He noted in the last 24 hours alone, a further 800 workers have said they are unable or unwilling to work.
The federal government agreed to send members of the Canadian military to help in Québec residences, but did not confirm the number to be deployed. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also requested the military help with the situation in seniors’ residences in that province, which is rapidly deteriorating as well. During his morning briefing, Prime Minister Trudeau addressed the issue. “We are witnessing terrible tragedies in long-term care facilities across the country. This is unacceptable. We need to do better.” He said his government will be taking “a long, hard look at this situation” to find answers to fix the challenges the crisis has exposed. “In Canada, we shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors.”
Slight increase in local cases
Across the province, Legault said there had been an additional 109 deaths attributed to the coronavirus to bring the number to 1,243. The number of confirmed cases increased by 873 to a total of 21,838, including 1,411 individuals being treated in hospital (an increase of 133). Of those in hospital, 207 are being treated in intensive care. In the Montérégie, there are now 2,650 cases, with 230 people in hospital, and 37 of those in intensive care. There have been 71 deaths in the region. There was no change in the number of cases per municipality announced for the immediate region, with only Hemmingford and Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka registering 5 or more cases. The number of cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN) increased by one to 16. The number of confirmed cases in the Suroît LHN increased to 135, while the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN increased to 261 cases, and the Jardins-Roussillon LHN jumped to 384. The majority of the cases in each LHN are clustered in urban municipalities, such as Salaberry-de-Valleyfield with 99 cases, Vaudreuil-Dorion with 118 cases, and Chateauguay with 103 confirmed cases.
During his address, Legault introduced the concept of herd immunity as part of the logic behind the gradual reopening of schools, daycares and businesses. Horacio Arruda, Québec’s public health director, said he believes between 5 and 10 per cent of Québecers have developed immunity to the virus. As the economy is rebooted, a large number of Quebecers may become infected but gradually, leading to a certain level of immunity within the population. This could make it more difficult for the virus to spread and afford the province some protection against a second wave in the fall. Arruda insisted that as services and businesses are reopened, they would be testing people throughout the process and closely monitoring the results.
Legault once again promised a plan or calendar for the reopening of schools, daycares and businesses will be released at some point next week. “This does not mean that schools will be opening next week,” he said, while reiterating that once schools are open, attendance will not be mandatory.
Funding for research and scientific development
Today, Trudeau also announced a three-pronged approach to funding research and scientific development to combat COVID-19. A total of $115 million will be allocated for research into vaccines and treatments, followed by $662 million for clinical trials led by Canada, and $350 million for the establishment of a task force to oversee the expansion of national testing and modeling. “Canada’s best and brightest will be working on serology testing, blood testing, to track and understand immunity to COVID-19.” Trudeau said that testing must increase “before we can re-open and restart our normal activities as a country.” Trudeau also noted that there could be treatments developed before a vaccine is found and that could lead to a loosening of restrictions.
The government has also announced help for the agricultural and food sector. A new job site, “Step up to the Plate: Help feed Canadians,” (visit www.canada.ca) has been launched for both students and older workers looking to help on farms this growing season.