MONTREAL — COVID-19 transmission in Quebec remains high, though the situation is stabilizing in certain parts of the province, a senior public health official said Thursday.
The rate of community spread has reached a plateau in the greater Montreal area, in the province's north and in the Outaouais region, near Ottawa, Dr. Marie-France Raynault, a senior adviser to the Health Department, told reporters.
In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, located along the province's western border with Ontario, the rate of infection is decreasing, she said, although the situation remains "fragile."
"We still expect that we'll have some more hospitalizations in the coming weeks, because we know that even if the transmission in the community slows down a little bit, it takes about two weeks until we see the effect on the hospitalizations," Raynault said.
The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in Quebec has risen by 326 since public health director Dr. Luc Boileau said a week ago that the province had entered a seventh wave of the pandemic. On Thursday, the Health Department said 1,860 people were in hospital with the disease, an increase of 93 from the day before.
"The situation is not so bad, as we don't have many people in the intensive care unit — that's very important," Raynault said, "but it's still a high rate of transmission."
The Health Department said 45 patients were in intensive care with the disease, a rise of two from the day before. The proportion of patients in intensive care is lower than during the previous wave in the spring, Raynault said, adding that it's a sign the vaccine is continuing to protect people against severe illness.
"Currently, the situation is difficult in the hospitals because of issues like staff shortages and the high level of community transmission, even if it doesn't make people extremely sick, it still has a significant impact on resources, particularly nursing resources in the health-care system," she said.
Raynault said around half the people in hospital with COVID-19 were admitted specifically for the disease or for another condition that has been exacerbated by the disease, with the rest testing positive for COVID-19 after admission.
Despite the high level of community transmission, Raynault said she is not recommending the province reinstate its mask mandate. "I believe in education and not always mandatory measures," she said, adding that she recommends people wear masks when they are in crowded areas.
Raynault said the province is waiting for recommendations from its immunization committee to decide how the vaccine would be rolled out to young children, following news earlier in the day that Health Canada approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for kids between the ages of six months and five years.
She said the committee is assessing the risks and benefits of vaccinating young children and will advise the government on how best to speak to parents about it. Raynault said the vaccine was more strongly recommended for people over the age of 60 and for those living in long-term care than it was for children six to 12 years old, because children are at lower risk of serious illness.
The committee, she added, will also determine whether certain young children — such as those who have had cancer — will be prioritized for vaccination.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press