1) The number of cases involving #COVID19 variants now appears to be rising faster in Quebec than in Ontario, the latest tallies by the two provinces suggest. In this thread, I will examine what this means as Quebec considers easing restrictions even after the March break.
2) Since Feb. 13, Ontario has reported an increase of 82 cases of the more contagious B117 variant and three more cases of the B1351 variant. Quebec is not reporting its numbers the same way, with only 16 confirmed cases of variants.
3) However, during the same period Quebec has confirmed an increase in five cases of variants and has reported 236 presumptive cases (up by 63 from the day before), with most likely occurring in the Montreal area and involving the B117 lineage.
4) Ontario Public Health does not report presumptive cases, so the comparison with Quebec might not be a fair one. Perhaps Quebec has cleared a backlog, adding lots of such cases in the past few days. Nonetheless, the latest numbers in Quebec are a cause for real concern.
5) Quebec — like Ontario and jurisdictions around the world — is dealing with two epidemics, really: the old involving the common types that is waning, and the new one involving B117, which is at least 50% more transmissible and deadlier.
6) In that context, it defies logic for Quebec’s public health authorities to recommend on Friday a further loosening of restrictions following the student break on March 8. In contrast, federal authorities urged the exact opposite on the same day. montrealgazette.com/news/local-new…
7) Federal projections warn of 20,000 #COVID19 cases a day by mid-March if measures are relaxed further, which is precisely what Quebec aims to do. Chief public health officer Theresa Tam urged provinces to avoid the “yo-yo-ing effect” of relaxing and reinstating restrictions.
8) In a breaking development, covidecolesquebec.org reported on Friday night that École Marguerite d’Youville has closed due to a suspected #COVID19 case involving a variant. What’s especially worrisome is the school is not located in Montreal but farther afield in Quebec City.
9) Meanwhile, the old #COVID19 epidemic in Montreal showed more signs of subsiding on Friday, with the city posting 353 cases. The city’s seven-day average has fallen to 19.05 cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest it’s been since the start of December. See the chart below.
10) On the vaccine front, it looks like Health Minister Christian Dubé has been able to follow through on his promise of boosting #COVID19 vaccinations in Montreal. On Thursday, nurses administered 2,879 more shots, the highest in days.
11) Research has shown the new #COVID19 variants are transmissible for a longer period and that more young people are asymptomatic and carrying them. No wonder the Quebec City school closed. And yet the government wants to relax restrictions. End of thread.

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More from @Aaron_Derfel

19 Feb
1) In the past three days, the number of presumptive #COVID19 variants has more than doubled from 86 to 173 in Quebec, with most cases occurring in Montreal. The proliferation of the variants, most likely B117, has prompted the government to consider new measures for schools.
2) Education Minister Jean-François Roberge defended his handling of the #pandemic in schools on Thursday, asserting the government has acted with agility. Still, Roberge stopped short of going into detail about possible measures. Will he finally allow air purifiers in schools?
3) Quebec reported on Thursday that the number of #COVID19 outbreaks in schools rose by nine to 283, the only sector to observe an increase. One more school closed temporarily, but the total number of cases did decline. See the chart below.
Read 10 tweets
18 Feb
1) The Montreal public health department released its weekly report on #COVID19 outbreaks on Wednesday, reporting a dramatic drop in clusters. But behind the headline number are worrisome trends. In this thread, I will focus on the trouble spots.
2) First, the headline number: #COVID19 outbreaks in Montreal plunged by 116 to 363 on Tuesday from a week earlier. I haven’t seen such a significant decrease in months. This is likely the result of the nightly curfew and other restrictions that Quebec imposed on Jan. 9.
3) Digging deeper, one observes that #COVID19 outbreaks in hospitals and eldercare homes plunged by 109 to 65. Even more impressive is the fact the number of active cases plummeted by 2,001 to 1,608 in this sector, suggesting perhaps the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Read 10 tweets
17 Feb
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.
Read 10 tweets
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

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