(Montreal) Already more than half of schools in Quebec have had at least one case of COVID-19 since the start of the school year, significantly more than at the start of the 2020 school year. Although Quebec on Wednesday expanded the deployment of tests fast in the Montreal region, they are still waiting in many schools.
Posted on October 14, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Health reports that 1,503 of the province’s 2,997 schools have recorded at least one case of COVID-19 among their students or staff.
COVID-19 is mostly felt in elementary schools, where students under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination.
Fueled by the Delta variant, COVID-19 has spread significantly faster in this return to primary schools. On September 27, Quebec observed a peak of 332 active outbreaks in these establishments. This is more than at the peak of winter 2020. In comparison, Quebec had 75 last year during the same period.
It is in this context that Quebec broadened, on Wednesday, access to rapid tests in the “hot” districts of Montreal that are Parc-Extension, Saint-Michel and Montreal-Nord. When a student tests positive for COVID-19, all of their classmates will be screened with such a test, even if they have no symptoms. Parental consent will be required.
To avoid “monopolizing the resources of the schools”, the tests will be carried out by the personnel of the St. John Ambulance.
The Montreal Association of School Directions (AMDES) deplores having learned of this announcement “at the last minute”. “We would like everything to work from Monday. It’s not at all realistic, ”observes its president, Kathleen Legault.
She recalls that her association has been asking since mid-September that the authorization forms given to parents be translated into several languages. “We still haven’t had them,” says M.me Legault, who specifies that consent “must be informed”.
At the end of September, rapid tests were sent to ten regions where the risk of outbreaks was highest. At the Ministry of Health and Social Services, it is specified that the entire Quebec territory will be covered this week.
So far, about half of the schools in the province have set up a screening structure, which involves training of staff. In the past two weeks, 2,000 of these tests were administered in schools and 40 were positive.
Outside Montreal, “most” schools in the province have not implemented the tests, notes a source who is not authorized to speak to reporters. The Ministry of Education recalls that “the directive to administer these tests is clear, must be applied and has been reiterated to school bodies”.
The Laval Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS) confirmed Wednesday to Press that the rapid tests, which until now were used in the Chomedey sector, will be deployed in all schools in the territory.
A different situation in high school
The picture is very different in high school, where the majority of students are vaccinated. There are currently 24 active outbreaks in these facilities, up from 138 during the same time last year. “Almost all surveys [de la Santé publique] are done in primary schools. In high school, it’s relatively quiet, ”observes Nicolas Prévost, president of the Quebec Federation of Educational Institutions (FQDE).
The scenario is similar in higher education institutions. There are currently four active outbreaks in all CEGEPs and universities in the province, compared to 26 last year at the same time.
As many as 93.4% of 12 to 17 year olds received at least one dose and 86.2% of 18 to 24 year olds. Since the start of the year, 6,183 students and 582 staff have contracted COVID-19. The fourth wave seems to affect the public network as much as the private one.
Although the trend is on the decline, children under the age of 10 currently have the highest rates of spread among age groups. These report nearly 120 new cases on average every day.
Balance sheet on the rise
Quebec crosses this threshold as COVID-19 is experiencing a surge. After three weeks of decline, the number of new cases has started to climb slightly for seven days. The province reported 512 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the daily average to 555. The trend is up 3% over one week.
The number of hospitalizations has also increased. There are currently 298 people hospitalized, including 75 in intensive care. The hospitalization trend is thus slightly up compared to last week.
The seven deaths reported on Wednesday bring the average to four per day, which is stable compared to the last week.
To date, 78.8% of Quebecers have received at least a first dose and 75.9% are fully vaccinated.