Quebec declares beginning of second wave as COVID-19 gains steam in central Canada

MONTREAL — COVID-19 appeared to be gaining steam in several regions of central Canada on Monday, prompting Quebec's public health director to announce the beginning of a second wave in that province.

Quebec and Ontario reported more than 1,000 cases between them, including 586 cases in Quebec, a jump of more than 100 compared with Sunday. Ontario's numbers increased to 425 from 365 a day before.

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The news prompted Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, to declare a second wave of COVID-19 had started in the province.

"I'm very, very, very worried by the situation, to the point where I consider that now we may be in a second wave, we're in a second wave at its beginning," he told a news conference in Quebec City.

Quebec announced tighter restrictions on public and private indoor gatherings on Sunday as it raised the alert level for several regions of the province, including Montreal and Quebec City.

But Arruda said the situation was serious all over the province and people need to respect limits on gatherings and other health guidelines in order to limit additional cases.

"This second wave, we can transform it into a smaller wave than we experienced before, but if we don't make the effort, it can be even bigger than the first," he said.

Genevieve Guilbault, the province's deputy premier, said police over the weekend had visited more than 2,000 bars and restaurants and issued 1,500 warnings and 90 tickets to those not respecting health rules.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said his government would release its plan to deal with a second wave on Tuesday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott added the response to the second wave could be more complicated due to flu season and the need to address the province's surgery backlog.

"We have planned for the worst and are ready for it."

Many cases reported Monday appeared to be concentrated in large cities, including Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Manitoba health officials said 16 of 22 new cases across the province were in the capital, where the number of active cases has almost tripled since the start of September.

"We note that many of these new cases have had large number of contacts, and that means we're having additional people exposed to the virus, and contact tracing becomes more complex," Dr. Brent Roussin told a news conference as he highlighted the importance of staying home for people who feel even slightly ill.

In Montreal, which is Canada's hardest-hit city, public health director Mylene Drouin said all COVID-19 indicators are worsening, suggesting the beginning of a second wave. The city reported more than 200 new cases Monday.

While public health officials are warning of a second wave, it's not yet clear what it will look like.

In Quebec and in Ontario, the jump in new cases is being driven by people under the age of 40, who Drouin said are less likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 but can still transmit the virus to others.

The people becoming infected "are workers, those are the ones who bring the virus in the workplace, in elder homes, schools or kindergarten, so we have to be vigilant at this time," she told a news conference.

Health officials in Montreal and Winnipeg both said the surge in cases had not yet led to the health-care system being overburdened.

Meanwhile, authorities continued to report COVID-19 outbreaks across the country Monday, including in schools, workplaces, a busy Calgary hospital and on an Edmonton university campus.

The Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary was working to contain apparently unrelated outbreaks in its cardiac care and general medicine units.

To date, 14 patients and four staff members have tested positive for the virus. One patient has died. Fifty-seven staff members are isolating.

"There have been some reports of inconsistent masking use in visitors that are being investigated, as well as concerns about a staff member who may have worked while symptomatic," said chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

An outbreak at a men's residence at the University of Alberta forced the school to shut down all varsity athletics for two weeks. Five residents of the building have tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 more are isolating.

Alberta had 1,459 active COVID-19 cases as of Monday, with more than half in Edmonton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2020.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version reported 568 cases for Quebec.

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