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

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

county
County of Stettler council meeting highlights for Jan. 13th

County council chambers will be getting some audio-visual upgrades

It was a special treat day at Points West Living in Stettler as the local Dairy Queen donated mini blizzard treats for residents and staff to enjoy. It was a way to celebrate the end of a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. photo submitted
It was a special treat day at Stettler’s Points West Living recently

Dairy Queen provided 150 mini-blizzards for staff and residents

book
Stettler Learning Centre staff broaden services in challenging times

“We are creative, we are innovative and we are resilient. We are flexible and we want to adapt.”

ski
Valley Ski Club Slope Stabilization Project is awarded CFEP Grant

With forecasts predicting continued mild weather, the board made the decision not to proceed with the current season

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Central Alberta’s Catherine Hayreceived a letter from the Government of Canada recently stating she had to repay the government. Photo submitted
Central Albertan asked to repay CERB amount

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Most Read