2022, the worst pandemic summer in Quebec

Many more deaths, higher hospitalizations, but most importantly, strong community transmission: 2022 is the worst pandemic summer Quebec has seen to date. In the midst of the seventh wave, the province is now facing a new reality: the new variants are increasingly breaking with the “seasonal logic” to which COVID-19 has so far accustomed us.

Posted at 6:30 p.m

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

Pierre-Andre Normandin

Pierre-Andre Normandin
The press

“The more the virus changes, the more it surprises us. It’s increasingly frustrating the phenomenon of seasonal cycles we’ve seen before, a bit like the flu. We’ve already seen that with the previous variants, but it’s becoming more and more pronounced,” explains the DD Sophie Zhang, General Practitioner at CHSLD Bruchési.

The pandemic is being felt much more strongly in Quebec hospitals this summer. They currently have 1887 infected patients to treat. This is significantly more than in the past two years, even considering that only a third of hospitalized patients (640) were admitted due to COVID-19. In the same period in 2020 there were 285 infected patients and 81 in 2021.

On the mortality side, Quebec reports an average of 11 deaths per day. At this point in 2020 it was less than 3 a day. In addition, the comparison with the summer of 2021 is even more striking. Between June 15 and August 31, Quebec had reported a total of 54 deaths. This summer, Quebec has already reported 243 since mid-June.

The virus ‘isn’t done changing yet’

The DD Zhang reminds that the virus is increasingly “preventing” the immunological effectiveness of vaccines, making the potential for contamination even greater, especially as the vaccination campaign for the booster dose in Quebec runs out. “It’s a surprise. We went to several waves, we went a little [mieux] ready. Nobody expected to suddenly have so many cases this summer,” she adds.

As in previous waves, young people are spreading the coronavirus while older people are paying the price. Two thirds of those currently infected are under 60 years old. These are doing quite well, although some of them are experiencing complications. Conversely, seniors aged 80 and over largely explain the heavy toll of COVID-19 this summer. When they capture just under 13% of cases, they account for more than a third of hospital admissions and two-thirds of deaths.

“The problem for me is that we kind of pretend we’re really in an endemic phase when we’re not. We can’t control the virus yet, we can’t predict it, it’s not cyclical like the flu for example. That’s what’s surprising us all at the moment,” says virologist and professor in the Department of Life Sciences at UQAM Benoit Barbeau, for whom the growing vaccine flight is arguably “for a lot” too.

In his eyes, the population “already decided that the pandemic was endemic and that we will continue”, which he understands after more than a year of health restrictions. “Except that in reality we will not be endemic until we are able to predict the spread of this virus. »

We are imagining that we are living with the COVID-19, but it still surprises us enormously.

Benoit Barbeau, virologist

“We see that the virus has really improved its transmission ability, especially since the BA.5 variant,” he adds. And it is to be expected that this will remain the case for the next few months. He’s not done with the change yet. »

absence “hurts”

If deaths and hospitalizations remain under control in the health network, it is above all the high level of community transmission and the pronounced absenteeism of staff that are currently “hurting”, estimates the president of the Association of Medical Specialists in Emergency of Quebec, the Dright Gilbert Boucher. On Friday, 7,138 employees were missing from the health network due to the pandemic.

“The biggest problem we have right now is really system overload,” he notes. If we add two or three colleagues who disappear every shift because of COVID, there are days on floors where there is almost no entry. »

The Dright Boucher confirms that at several facilities from the start, “emergency rooms are already half full with patients awaiting hospitalization” for COVID-19, but especially for the majority for other reasons. “Handling 10,000 patients with half the beds that can be managed is very complex. For the past three months, the attrition rate of patients who leave without seeing a doctor has been around 15%. Historically, we’re closer to 10%,” he continues.

The situation in brief

The 11 deaths reported on Friday brought the seven-day daily average to 11. The trend is up 10% over a week. Quebec also reported an increase of 27 hospitalizations on Friday. The 1,887 people currently hospitalized represent an increase of 22% over one week. In the ICU, the 42 patients represent a stable trend over one week. The 1,910 new cases reported on Friday brought the daily average to 1,736. So the trend is up 26% in a week. Finally, the vaccination campaign continues. Quebec administers an average of 10,500 doses per day, mostly fourth doses. To date, 83.6% of Quebecers have received two doses, but only 52.7% have received three and 15.4% have received four.

Pierre Andre Normandin, The press

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