Analysis: Quebec now reports Canada’s largest resurgence of COVID-19

This wave is likely driven by the new, highly contagious viral strain JN.1, which is also spreading rapidly in the United States.

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Wastewater concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19 have risen again in Montreal, providing further evidence of a strong recovery in Quebec at the same time that the province is experiencing an increase in flu case.

Quebec is battling with 2,300 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a level not seen since January, once again straining the province’s fragile public health system. One million Quebecers have contracted COVID, the flu and other viruses in the past two weeks.

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So far in December, COVID has been linked to the deaths of 163 people in Quebec, compared to 450 deaths in all of December last year. Since the start of the pandemic, 19,230 Quebecers have died from complications of COVID, the highest toll of any Canadian province.

Quebec has reported the most severe COVID-19 activity of any province or territory in the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. This resurgence is likely driven by the new, more virulent JN.1 viral strain, which is also spreading rapidly in the United States.

The map shows the national and regional trends for COVID in Canada.  There were 5,293 cases in Quebec, the highest.
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada Photo by Source: Institut national de sant publique du Qubec

Dr. Luc Boileau, head of Quebec’s public health agency, noted that JN.1 has proven to be highly contagious, but not particularly virulent or dangerous. The latest mortality figures appear to back up Boileaus’ statement, but COVID still remains deadly for older people, especially those in their 80s.

A fitness professional in his early 60s who is fit and well, an avid biker and skier told the Montreal Gazette that he was completely sick with COVID last week. He is on Paxlovid and received his booster in early October.

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It’s no joke, he said, declining to have his name published to discuss his case candidly. She suspects she caught COVID at a Hanukkah party.

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A Montreal ER doctor noted that of the 35 to 40 patients lying on stretchers in the corridors waiting for a hospital bed on an average shift, about four were positive for COVID.

Sure have seen COVID, but they are not as sick as before, said the doctor, who also did not want his name published because he is not authorized to talk to the news media.

What surprises the ER specialist, however, is the high number of patients with lung and heart disease who are now hospitalized with influenza and other respiratory viruses. And all of this is happening in ERs amid severe staffing shortages across the health network.

The graph shows the increasing level of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater
The graph shows the number of COVID-19 deaths in Quebec, with 163 in December 2023.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Christian Dub urged Quebecers to get their COVID and flu shots. Just under 1.5 million Quebecers have received COVID shots since October 1. To date, 43.1 percent of Quebec’s population over the age of 60 have received boosters.

Boileau said he did not expect public health protections to be reinstated despite the so-called twin-demic. Wash your hands, he advises, even though SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne virus that studies have shown spreads through aerosols, even over long distances.

Perhaps Quebec should follow the advice of New York City, which encouraged people to wear masks during its own revival.


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