Sarah Rennie and Nadia Geukjian
Quebec Premier François Legault offered his condolences to the families of 143 new victims of the coronavirus. The spike in deaths is in part related to the public health authority’s catching up to the data. There are now 630 deaths in the province attributed to the virus, including a 44-year old doctor who is believed to have worked for the Direction de la santé publique de la Montérégie.
The number of confirmed cases also jumped Thursday by 917 positive results. There are now 1,018 individuals in hospital with 209 of those being treated in intensive care. “The situation in hospitals is under control,” said Legault. “We are concentrating our efforts on nursing homes where the situation remains critical,” he explained.
Since yesterday, more than 2,000 doctors responded to his call to serve in the CHSLD network, which will, he suggests, greatly help to bring the situation under control. Legault said he had also requested to have employees from the armed forces qualified in health care transferred by the federal government to Quebec. This request could see an additional 60 to 100 people coming to help in the coming days.
According to a list of residences and CHSLDs visited by the government, there are three private seniors’ residences in the Montérégie-west with potential outbreaks. The Manoir Harwood in Vaudreuil and the Residence Beauharnois in Beauharnois are both listed as having between 15% and 25% of residents infected, while the Residence Quatre Saisons in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has 15% or fewer residents infected. The CISSSMO opened a new COVID-19 unit at the Hotel Plaza in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, with 20 beds over two floors for the accommodation of confirmed cases from private seniors’ residences unable to create secure spaces within their own buildings. The new unit will take in patients from across the whole of the Montérégie-West. According to Jade St-Jean, senior communications advisor with the CISSSMO, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 11 CHSLDs located within the territory. There are also no confirmed cases being treated in any of the region’s hospitals.
Number of cases up in the region
The number of cases in the Montérégie jumped to 1,807, an increase of 121. Of those, there are 148 currently in hospital with 22 in intensive care. There have been 25 deaths recorded in the area. According to the breakdown of cases by municipality published by the Direction de santé publique de la Montérégie, all 13 municipalities of the Haut-Saint-Laurent as well as Hemmingford are still listed as having fewer than five cases. Sainte-Martine now has 5 cases, while Mercier has 30 and Chateauguay in now reporting 76 cases. Vaudreuil-Dorion now has 74 cases while Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has increased to 56 cases.
The numbers as reported according to local health network (LHN) presents a starker picture of the situation surrounding the Valley. The number of cases in the Jardins-Roussillon LHN, which includes Hemmingford, is listed at 288. The number of cases in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN is 184, the number of confirmed cases in the Suroît LHN is 87, while there are 10 cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent LHN.
“We can’t say that we are protected in our countryside,” said Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the Haut-Saint-Laurent COVID-19 coordinator. “In the communities around us we are seeing more cases in the community and in the elderly. And, there has been an increase in the number of people coming to the Emergency Room [at the Barrie Memorial Hospital] with symptoms compatible with COVID-19,” she says.
“Right now is probably the most critical time to be staying home,” says Dr. Justin Wight, who is also working at the temporary clinic. “The fire is burning all around us,” he adds, noting that anytime people travel outside the immediate region, they risk bringing the virus back with them as it is now circulating in the community. “We should be staying as close to home as possible.”
Federal government offers more support to small businesses
Emergency support for small businesses was expanded today, as Trudeau announced a lowering of eligibility requirements to the CEBA loan. Businesses with a payroll between $20,000 and $1.5 million in 2019 will now be eligible for the $40,000 interest-free loan guaranteed by the government. The CEBA loan is meant to help businesses with operational and immediate needs, and application is through banks.
Further support for business owners was announced in the form of rent assistance. The CECRA plan will help with the payment of rent for the months of April, May and June. More details are to follow in the coming days. Trudeau will hold talks Thursday night with provincial and territorial leaders to discuss topping up the pay of essential workers who earn less than $2500 a month, and who need to be shown “gratitude and support” for the work they do. Trudeau expressed concern at the number of deaths occurring in long-term health facilities and will be talking to the Premiers about “how we can better protect our most vulnerable.”
In discussions with reporters about when the economy will be opening, Trudeau once again reiterated that this “has to be done at the right moment and very carefully.” The Prime Minister was also clear that easing restrictions at the Canada-US border will also be weeks away, following a suggestion by American President Donald Trump that said restrictions could soon be released.