COVID-19 cases drop in Quebec nursing homes, experts credit vaccine, other factors

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MONTREAL — A Montreal gerontologist says the decline of new COVID-19 infections in the province’s long-term care homes may be an early sign Quebec’s vaccination strategy is working.

But Dr. Sophie Zhang, who oversees 15 long-term care centres in Montreal, says other factors are also likely contributing to the decline.

Four new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Quebec’s long-term care network on Tuesday.

The number of active reported cases in the network has dropped significantly, from 840 on Jan. 16 to 85 a month later.

Quebec vaccinated all long-term care residents with one dose by late January, part of a plan that focused on giving one of two required doses to as many people as possible. The province has said it is on track to deliver a second dose within 90 days of the first one.

Members of the committee that developed Quebec’s vaccination plan are scheduled to speak about its preliminary results later today.

Zhang, who supports the province’s vaccine strategy, says “vaccination is part of the package” that has led to the decline in the number of new cases in long-term care.

“What we’re seeing is a combination of several things in synergy and really working together to decrease the cases and mortality,” she said in an interview Tuesday. The lockdown and curfew, she added, have also contributed to the decline in the overall number of active infections in Quebec.

Long-term care centres have also improved infection control and prevention measures since the first wave, Zhang said.

Dr. David Lussier, of the Institut universitaire de geriatrie de Montreal, a geriatric hospital, says that while vaccination is probably helping to reduce cases in long-term care, it doesn’t explain why private seniors residences — where less than half the population has been vaccinated — have also seen a drop in new cases.

There are currently 317 active cases of COVID-19 in seniors residences, compared with 1,756 a month ago.

Joyce Shanks, a member of the Family Advocacy Committee at Maimonides, the long-term care centre where the first doses of vaccine were administered in Montreal, says she’s still worried.

Her father, who lives at Maimonides, received one dose of vaccine more than 60 days ago but has not received the second.

“We’re holding our breath; we’re not breathing a sigh of relief,” she said Wednesday.

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

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press