October 21st, 2020

30 per cent of all Quebec COVID cases in first wave involved health workers: report

By Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press on October 15, 2020.

A woman walks through an empty underground tunnel linking office buildings in Montreal, on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Quebec’s Health Ministry is reporting 969 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 89,963.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL – Thirty per cent of the COVID-19 infections during the first wave of the pandemic in Quebec involved health-care workers, according to a new report from the province’s public health institute.

Health-care workers had an infection rate between March 1 and June 14 that was 10 times the rate of the wider public, the report, published Wednesday, said. Eleven workers died.

The study also found that 40 per cent of infected health care-workers who were in contact with patients with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 didn’t always wear personal protective equipment.

Of those workers, 55 per cent said the equipment wasn’t available, while nearly 20 per cent said it was difficult to access, according to a survey of 3,249 workers who were in contact with COVID-19 patients.

On Thursday, Quebec reported 969 new cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus in the previous 24 hours.

Another 22 deaths newly linked to the virus occurred at earlier dates while two deaths previously attributed to COVID-19 were unrelated, health authorities said.

Hospitalizations rose by five compared with the prior day, for a total of 493, and 83 patients are in intensive care, a rise of three.

The province has reported a total of 89,963 cases of COVID-19 and 6,005 deaths linked to the virus.

Wednesday’s report by the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec said that by the end of the first wave, the percentage of workers who weren’t always wearing protecting equipment when in contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 dropped to 10 per cent.

More than 20 per cent of workers who developed COVID-19 worked at more than one facility, while 10 per cent worked at three or more, according to a survey of 5,074 workers who recovered from the disease. The movement of workers between facilities was blamed for spreading the disease to vulnerable populations in long-term care homes during the first wave.

Nearly half of the workers who contracted COVID-19 were employed in long-term care homes while 34 per cent worked in hospitals. Seventy per cent were orderlies, nurses or nursing assistants; only three per cent of those who got sick were doctors.

In a statement responding to the report, Quebec’s Health Department said it learned “important lessons” during the first wave of the pandemic and that it has taken “numerous” actions to prepare the health-care system for the second wave.

Those measures include, it said, improved infection control and prevention as well as the hiring of 7,000 additional patient-care attendants.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2020.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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