1) On the same day authorities announced 86 probable cases of the more contagious #COVID19 variants in Quebec, Premier François Legault announced he will reopen movie theatres, public pools and arenas on Feb. 26. In this thread, I will examine these contradictory developments.
2) The probable cases were confirmed mostly in Montreal and likely involve the B117 variant that originated in the U.K. The results followed the screening of 925 positive samples, but Health Minister Christian Dubé warned this does not mean the probability rate is 9.3%.
3) Dubé suggested it may be 2%, which appears to be the case in Laval. But given that the B117 variant is at least 50% more transmissible than the current so-called wild type, it may be only a matter of time before the B117 strain becomes dominant in the greater Montreal region.
4) For this reason, Legault’s announcement of the reopening of cinemas and pools in time for Quebec’s March break raises questions. Authorities are currently investigating whether the B117 variant may be driving #COVID19 clusters in Montreal prisons. montrealgazette.com/news/local-new…
5) And covidecolesquebec.org is reporting tonight the closing of a third Montreal school, École des Grands Êtres, after a #COVID19 outbreak and a presumptive case of a variant. This follows confirmed and presumptive variants at Collège Stanislas and Yechiva Yavne last week.
6) Think about Montreal’s predicament for a moment. Shopping malls are once again packed with little #PhysicalDistancing. Cinemas and public pools will soon reopen. The city’s hospital emergency rooms are again overcrowded. And the B117 variant is spreading.
7) The precautionary principle would suggest that in addition to maintaining the nightly curfew, Quebec should reconsider reopening cinemas, pools and hockey arenas. At present, only 3.1% of the Quebec population has been vaccinated against #COVID19 with one dose. Why tempt fate?
8) Meanwhile, Montreal remained in red zone territory Tuesday, with a seven-day rolling average of 20.47 cases per 100,000 residents. For now, the number of #COVID19 cases appears to be trending downward, as the chart below indicates.
9) A little more than two weeks after retail stores were allowed to reopen, the province on Tuesday reported that the number of #COVID19 outbreaks in the workplace rose by five to 332. But clusters declined in all other sectors.
10) Premier Legault was asked Tuesday whether Quebec might re-impose a lockdown similar to the one last spring should the variants lead to a massive #COVID19 resurgence. Legault seemed taken aback by the question. I thought the question was perfectly valid. End of thread.

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More from @Aaron_Derfel

16 Feb
1) Quebec reported five more cases of the super transmissible B117 variant Monday, raising the total to just 13. That compares with 303 in Ontario, 164 in Alberta and 29 in British Columbia. In this thread, I'll try to explain why Quebec is under-reporting the number of variants.
2) Clearly, Quebec authorities are behind Ontario, Alberta and less populous B.C. in sequencing the variants to determine lineage. But Quebec could add another category to its stats pending confirmation by sequencing: new figures on cases containing the N501Y mutation.
3) The three more contagious variants — B117 (which originated in Kent, England), B1351 (which appeared in South Africa) and P1 (which has swept through the state of Manaus in Brazil) — share the spike protein mutation, N501Y. Quick PRC tests can pick up cases with this mutation.
Read 12 tweets
15 Feb
1) The more contagious and deadlier B117 variant has now been found in every province in Canada and is on the increase in Ontario. But Quebecers have been in the dark since Tuesday about the extent of the spread of this variant and others.
2) Montreal shopping malls are once again packed with customers, many not maintaining #PhysicalDistancing. Officially, Quebec has eight cases of the B117 variant that originated in the U.K. By comparison, Ontario, reported cumulative 303 cases Saturday, up by 28 since Feb. 11.
3) On Sunday, Health Minister Christian Dubé urged Quebecers to limit their social contacts, saying the threat of the variants remains preoccupying. Yet how can the government reinforce this message, especially to those in shopping malls, without regular updates on the variants?
Read 10 tweets
14 Feb
1) While many Quebecers have understandably focused on the increase in #COVID19 outbreaks in schools, the province’s prisons have been reporting a surge in cases in the past couple of weeks. In this thread, I will try to explain what may be happening in jails.
2) First, it’s worth noting that the current number of #COVID19 cases among Quebec inmates and guards — 195 on Saturday — has surpassed the peak in this sector during the first wave. On May 17 last year, the total stood at 117, with just one outbreak. Image
3) By comparison, five prisons were battling #COVID19 clusters on Saturday. In the biggest outbreak, 120 inmates and 27 guards are infected at Bordeaux jail in north-end Montreal. Half of the 838 inmates have been confined to their cells as a precaution. Image
Read 9 tweets
13 Feb
1) While other provinces are providing detailed breakdowns on the number of #COVID19 variants, confusion and a lack of information persist in Quebec about the more transmissible strains. In this thread, I will explain why this is a major problem.
2) Since Tuesday, Quebec’s public health institute has not updated its website on the number of #COVID19 variants despite the positive screening of new cases in Montreal. Screening, or criblage in French, detects the spike protein mutation (N501Y) common to all three variants.
3) On Wednesday, Dr. Mylène Drouin, head of the Montreal public health department, noted there were 44 presumptive and suspected variant #COVID19 cases in the city. A day later, Drouin’s boss, Dr. Horacio Arruda, put the number at 37. Well, which is it?
Read 15 tweets
12 Feb
1) Have Montreal schools inadvertently become Trojan horses for the much more transmissible B117 variant? That’s a fair question to ask after a second school this week disclosed that students were infected with the variant that originated in the U.K.
2) For months, Quebec authorities have downplayed the risk schools play in the #pandemic, asserting that children are much less likely to develop serious #COVID19 complications. But that misses the point that schools are breeding grounds for the #coronavirus.
3) Dr. Mylène Drouin, head of the Montreal public health department, said as much on Wednesday when she expressed concern about the rise in #COVID19 cases among students. She also bemoaned an increase in cases among the parents of schoolchildren.
Read 10 tweets
11 Feb
1) Montreal public health authorities revealed on Wednesday that the super transmissible B117 variant is circulating a lot more in the city than previously known, triggering massive #COVID19 screening in some schools. In this thread, I will examine what this means.
2) First, Dr. Mylène Drouin of the public health department noted the city has eight confirmed B117 cases (one higher than provincial authorities have disclosed) and one from the California variant, Cal.20C, blamed for the spike in recently diagnosed infections in Los Angeles.
3) Second, Dr. Drouin added authorities have counted 23 presumptive cases of the B117 variant after initial screening. That means those cases have tested positive for the N501Y mutation on the spike protein of the #coronavirus. Genetic sequencing will confirm the exact variant.
Read 14 tweets

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