Quebec extends mask mandate until mid-May (2022)

Dr. Luc Boileau, the province's Interim public health director, delivered his first briefing since the Easter break.

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Quebec extends mask mandate until mid-May (1)

Katelyn Thomas, Montreal Gazette

Publishing date:

Apr 21, 2022April 21, 20224 minute read 18 Comments

Quebec extends mask mandate until mid-May (2)

Erring on the side of caution following Easter weekend, Quebec has decided to extend its mask mandate until mid-May.

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Interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau made the announcement during a COVID-19 news conference alongside Assistant Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lucie Opatrny on Thursday.

“We’re going to follow the situation closely and we’ll be delighted to reconsider this if the situation improves considerably over the next few days,” Boileau said.

Quebec had initially planned to drop most mask restrictions by mid-April before extending them by two weeks. Last week, Boileau maintained the possibility of lifting the mandate by the end of the month, saying people could calculate their own risk.

While this week’s COVID-19 projections from the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux are more optimistic than those from previous weeks, Boileau said some of the data remain unclear, particularly when it comes to transmission. There are signs it may have begun to slow in Quebec — potentially approaching a plateau or a peak — but the trend is inconsistent between age groups.

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“In particular, for people above the age of 70, we’re still seeing progression,” Boileau said.

As far as hospitalizations are concerned, projections show new admissions in the province will slow over the next two weeks, which Boileau said could lead to a stabilization of total hospitalizations. Another positive update is that there are fewer health-care workers absent for COVID-19 this week compared with previous ones (though the number still stood at 10,932 as of Thursday).

“We have to receive this as news that can be good, but receive it with caution,” Boileau said.

Given the uncertainty, public health decided to maintain the mask mandate — a generally well-accepted measure among the population — until the situation becomes more clear following Easter weekend. Public health is also closely surveilling new variants, Boileau said, including potentially more transmissible sub-variants of Omicron such as B.2.12 and XE.

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As it continues to respond to COVID-19, the province is now also dealing with the flu, which has found its way back into emergency rooms for the first time in two years. Public health expects it to progress over the next few weeks.

Though influenza will put an additional strain on health-care institutions, Opatrny said the situation in hospitals amid the sixth wave is very different than it was during the fifth, for a few reasons. At the moment, she said, the majority of people in hospital with COVID-19 are there for other reasons, and those hospitalized for COVID-19 specifically are staying fewer days. Only about five per cent of COVID-19 hospitalizations are ending up in the intensive-care unit, Opatrny added.

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“That’s also an indicator that with the large percentage of vaccination … in the population, that the virus — even when hospitalized — has a tendency to be less severe,” she said.

Hospitals also haven’t had to delay surgeries to the same extent during the sixth wave despite being affected by staff absences, Opatrny said. Montreal is hovering around Level 2 delays, compared with Level 3 in other regions. Some, like the Eastern Townships, are pushing Level 4, but haven’t reached it yet.

Both Boileau and Opatrny are suggesting for Quebecers to adopt the same behaviours when dealing with a case of influenza as they would for a case of COVID-19. Boileau is reminding Quebecers that though the at-home isolation period for COVID-19 is only five days, a modified isolation period must be observed for the remaining five.

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“During the second five-day period, we can leave the house, but it’s with the mask at all times, we don’t eat with others, we don’t go to restaurants, we don’t go to shows, we don’t receive people at home, we don’t go to friends’ houses and definitely not in CHSLDs or RPAs to visit,” he said.

Boileau also announced on Thursday that the recommended isolation period for immunocompromised Quebecers who test positive for COVID-19 is being reduced from 21 days to 10 and that preventive COVID-19 treatment Evusheld will soon become available to them.

Quebec reported 2,405 people with COVID-19 in hospitals on Thursday, an increase of 24, and 38 new deaths, the highest daily count in more than two months.

Meanwhile, the number of Quebec students absent due to COVID-19 continues to fall. A total of 17,620 were not in school on Tuesday — 12,246 in elementary schools, 4,945 in high schools and 429 in adult education — because of COVID-19, compared to 28,309 a week earlier, according to an analysis of data supplied by the Education Department on Thursday. That’s a 38-per-cent decrease, and the second consecutive week that absences have declined.

The number of absent teachers also dropped, to 1,263 from 1,848 last week.

The numbers include those who tested positive as well as those who were self-isolating without a positive test.

However, there was a big increase in the number of classes being taught remotely — 84 on Tuesday versus 37 a week earlier.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

kthomas@postmedia.com

twitter.com/katelynthomas

More On This Topic

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Quebec extends mask mandate until mid-May (3)

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