Quebec reports 96 more deaths from COVID-19 as hospitalizations rise, ICU stabilizes

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MONTREAL — Quebec hospitals continued to struggle under the burden of rising numbers of COVID-19 patients on Saturday, as the number of deaths reported in the previous 24 hours skyrocketed by 96.

Health officials said the number of people hospitalized with the virus rose by 110 to 3,195, setting yet another record, while the overall number of patients in intensive care remained stable at 275.

It was unclear how many of the 96 deaths occurred in the previous 24 hours, since not all deaths are added to the provincial tally on the day they occur. But the number is the highest reported since the pandemic's first wave in the spring of 2020.

Premier François Legault warned on Twitter that the weekend ahead would be a difficult one for health workers.

"Be careful and avoid hospitalizations," he wrote. "It's a good cold day to read a book."

The province reported another 6,705 cases of COVID-19, though officials have warned the real number is likely much higher because testing is restricted to high priority groups.

The test positivity rate was 13.3 per cent.

Legault suggested earlier this week that COVID-19 cases in the province appeared to have peaked, and that hospitalizations could follow suit in the coming days.

But on Saturday the number of patients entering hospital showed no sign of slowing.

The local health authority representing the east of Montreal said Saturday that it may have to move beyond the current highest level of service reduction, known as Level 4.

Valérie Lafleur, a spokesperson with the CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, said 28 per cent of the total available hospital beds in the region were occupied by COVID-19 patients. In an email, she said the region would move to Level 5 if that number hits 30 per cent.

Health officials said last week that under Level 4, elective surgeries and serious procedures that should be conducted within a several-month spectrum, such as cardiac and cancer-related surgeries, could be postponed.

Hospitals at that level are conducting between 20 and 50 per cent of their normal medical procedures to make room for COVID-19 patients, the health minister said earlier this week.

Lafleur did not specify which services would be further reduced at Level 5.

Health department data released Saturday suggested more than 100,000 people received a COVID-19 vaccine in the previous 24 hours, including 99,615 third doses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2022.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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