Some morgues, ICUs running out of space amid explosive growth in COVID-19 cases

Hospital Bed

TORONTO — With some morgues running out of space and hospitals facing an explosion in critically ill COVID-19 patients, the federal government was set on Wednesday to announce further measures related to incoming travellers, while Quebec mulled tighter restrictions that could include the country’s first curfew.

Canada has now seen nearly 625,000 cases of COVID-19, about 16,300 of them fatal. The bulk of cases has been in the country’s two largest provinces, where conditions have been deteriorating rapidly in recent weeks.

Ontario reported another 37 new deaths amid 3,266 new cases of the novel coronavirus as hospitals, particularly in southern Ontario, warned the intensive care situation had become dire.

Another 47 people died in Quebec from COVID-19, with 2,641 new cases reported and a rise in both hospitalizations and people in intensive care.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault is expected to announce a severe lockdown across the province later today. According to multiple reports, the province may order “non-essential” manufacturers and the construction sector to close and extend the current closure of schools. The premier is also reportedly planning to impose a curfew.

Quebec has now reported 217,999 COVID-19 infections and 8,488 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Ontario has had more than 200,000 confirmed cases and 4,767 deaths.

A second hospital in southwestern Ontario said on Wednesday that it had been forced to store bodies in a temporary morgue. David Musyj, CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital in Windsor, Ont., said the facility has been temporarily storing bodies in a trailer unit for the last two weeks.

Musyj said funeral homes were being strained by a “substantial” number of deaths in the area due in large part to COVID-19.

A hospital in London, Ont., also said was starting to store bodies in a mobile unit after its morgue reached capacity.

In a bleak assessment of the coming month, the head of the Ontario Hospitals Association warned the acute-care system is more stretched than ever and the situation is more dire.

“Unfortunately, all the indicators still are heading in the wrong direction,” said Anthony Dale. “In some cases, they’re accelerating, so the situation is actually getting much worse.”

Currently, close to 400 patients are in intensive care in Ontario because of COVID-19. To cope with the onslaught, some Ontario hospitals have begun using field units or cancelling non-urgent surgeries.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, for example, said its intensive care unit was already at 100 per cent capacity.

The problem for hospitals is that it will likely take another week or two to gauge the impact of current anti-pandemic measures and, more significantly, the impact of people’s choices over the holidays.

In Ottawa, Transport Minister Marc Garneau is expected to unveil more details later Wednesday on COVID-19 testing requirements for passengers returning to Canada.

Garneau announced last week that air travellers coming from abroad will have to show proof of negative test results, starting this Thursday at 12:01 a.m.