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Quebec hospitals overflowing as province hit with widespread flu

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Emergency rooms in Quebec hospitals are overflowing this holiday season as the flu spreads across the province.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is reporting a steady rise in influenza cases throughout the country and Quebec is no exception. Earlier this month, the agency described the flu as being “widespread” in the province.

The occupancy rate in Quebec hospitals is exceeding 100 per cent capacity in many cases, La Presse Canadienne has learned.

In Quebec City, the Centre hospitalier de l’Université Laval (CHUL) is at 109 per cent and the nearby Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus is at 115 per cent.

In Thetford Mines, the hospital is at 160 per cent. On Montreal’s South Shore, Anna-Laberge in Châteauguay has nearly doubled its maximum capacity at a rate of 187 per cent.

The Hôpital du Suroit, located in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, has reached 145 per cent.

Over in Longueuil, Pierre-Boucher is up to 120 per cent. 

Montreal hospitals filling up

Montreal hospitals have also seen an influx of patients.

“Our hospitals are bursting to the seams,” said Dr. Catherine Farrell, a pediatric intensive care specialist at Sainte-Justine. “Our emergency rooms are really overloaded.”

The rate at Hôpital Fleury is at 139 per cent. 

Maisonneuve-Rosemont is reporting 102 per cent.

“Influenza and gastroenteritis are two very contagious infections that are more common during the winter,” states the hospital’s website. “They can be avoided with simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing.”

Most flu cases can be treated at home

According to Santé Montréal’s website, eating more, sleeping less, hugs and handshakes are common practice over the holidays, making the spread of viruses and infections more common.

However, it states, there are alternatives to rushing off to the emergency room. Those alternatives start with a call to Info-Santé (811) to get advice from a medical professional.

Most cases of the flu can be treated at home. Quebec’s Health Ministry recommends seeking medical assistance only if you have difficulty breathing and a lingering fever in addition to the other flu symptoms.

Last year around this time, the situation was similar as emergency rooms across the province reported being over capacity due to the flu.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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