A grey minivan belonging to a local funeral home parks in front of a storage container that’s been converted into a temporary morgue at the rear of Windsor Regional Hospital Met Campus in Windsor, Ont., Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke

A grey minivan belonging to a local funeral home parks in front of a storage container that’s been converted into a temporary morgue at the rear of Windsor Regional Hospital Met Campus in Windsor, Ont., Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke

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

Case counts and death tolls continue to rise

With some morgues running out of space and hospitals facing an explosion in critically ill patients, Canada’s COVID-19 caseload rose sharply on Wednesday, while Quebec mulled tighter restrictions that could include the country’s first curfew.

Canada has now seen close to 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.

Compounding the picture was the still small but growing number of cases related to a novel coronavirus variant first found in the U.K. that is believed to be even more contagious than the original.

In her daily update, Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said Wednesday that the appearance of new variants is more reason to scrap all but absolutely necessary travel.

Nevertheless, Transport Minister Marc Garneau lifted the ban on inbound flights from the U.K.

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

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

Quebec Premier Francois Legault was expected to announce a severe lockdown across the province later Wednesday. According to multiple reports, the province might shut down “non-essential” manufacturers and the construction sector and keep schools closed.

Legault was also reportedly planning to impose a curfew as the province has recorded 217,999 COVID-19 infections and 8,488 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Ontario has recorded more than 200,000 confirmed cases and 4,767 deaths. Of the roughly 1,463 COVID-19 patients currently in hospital, more than 360 were in intensive care.

A hospital in London, Ont., was starting to store bodies in a mobile unit after its morgue reached capacity. A hospital in nearby Windsor, Ont., said it had been storing bodies in a trailer unit for the last two weeks.

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

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

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

To cope with the onslaught, some Ontario hospitals have begun using field units or cancelling non-urgent surgeries.

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.

New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, said she expected a jump in cases as a result of New Year’s Eve gatherings. Her comments came as the province reported 31 new cases — its highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic.

In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister said current restrictions on businesses and public gatherings would be extended beyond this week as the province reported 167 new cases and 10 more deaths.

In Ottawa, Garneau also clarified testing requirements for passengers arriving in Canada, saying the rules that require passengers to show proof of negative COVID-19 test results will help curb the spread of the virus across borders.

Passengers must take the PCR test — distinct from a rapid test — less than 72 hours before takeoff, or 96 hours in the cases of two dozen countries, mainly in the Caribbean.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bus routes for CMSD82 students in Cablecar and Kitamaat Village have been temporarily changed for Jan. 21 and 22. (Black Press file photo)
Temporary school bus route changes for Cablecar, Kitamaat Village

The two routes will be combined for Jan. 21 and 22 due to a bus driver shortage

Haisla Bridge traffic will be impacted overnights from Jan. 20 to 23 due to District work. (Clare Rayment/Kitimat Northern Sentinel)
Haisla Bridge traffic impacted due to District work

The bridge will be single lane traffic overnights from Jan. 20 to 23

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Black Press file photo
Fraud scam, car in ditch among weekly Kitimat RCMP report

Kitimat RCMP report from Dec. 18 to 24

(Mountainview Lodge photo)
Santa and Mrs. Claus payed a special visit to the residents at Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat back in December to help raise their spirits during the difficult Christmas season.
Good News, Kitimat!

Bringing some local good news to your week

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read