COVID-19 in Quebec: “Life must go on”, says the Prime Minister, describing his plan for the gradual reopening of schools

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The last:

  • Quebec has 24,982 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,599 people have died. Of the 84 new deaths, 79 were CHSLDs.
  • There are 1,541 people hospitalized, including 210 in intensive care.
  • Here is a guide to the numbers.
  • Quebec is expected to announce today its plan to gradually reopen schools and daycare centers.
  • Director of public health Horacio Arruda says he now recommends people wear a mask in public if they plan to be in a situation where they cannot stay two meters from others.

Confident that Quebec hospitals are controlling the COVID-19 epidemic, Premier François Legault presented a plan on Monday to gradually reopen elementary schools and daycares over the next month.

Legault announced that it would announce a plan on Tuesday to allow certain companies to reopen. These measures constitute the first provisional steps of the Government of Quebec towards the lifting of the containment measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, starting in mid-March.

“Life has to go on,” said Legault at the government’s daily press conference.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe provided details on the plan to reopen schools and daycares, including what measures will be taken to keep students safe and teachers.

Here are the main points:

  • Elementary schools and daycares outside the greater Montreal area will reopen on May 11.
  • Elementary schools and daycare centers in Greater Montreal, including Laval and the surrounding suburbs, will reopen on May 19.
  • All other schools – high schools, colleges and universities – will not reopen until the end of August.
  • Participation will not be compulsory. Classes will be limited to 15 students and daycare centers will have to halve their number.

Legault said the province will only meet this schedule if hospitalizations due to COVID-19 remain the same or continue to decrease. There are now 1,541 people in the hospital – an increase of 23 from Sunday. Some 210 patients are in intensive care, five fewer than yesterday.

“The most important requirement that had to be met before considering reopening schools and businesses is that we have control over our hospitals,” said Legault.

“We have to be able to take care of our people before we can have regular activities. “

Legault described several other reasons why the government felt it was time to gradually reopen schools, even though there was no vaccine against the new coronavirus.

With a plan to reopen some schools, school buses will be back on the road starting May 11, but to meet physical distance guidelines, only one child will ride on each seat. (Jean-Claude Taliana / Radio-Canada)

It will benefit children, especially those with learning disabilities for whom five or six months without going to school could have serious and long-term consequences, he said.

He also noted that young children are least likely to develop serious complications from COVID-19.

Quebec is the first province to set specific dates for its plan to reopen part of its school system. Other provinces have set specific targets for the number of new COVID-19 cases before allowing children to return to class, or they have chosen to prioritize other activities – such as returning to elective surgeries in hospitals – as they reflect on how they will lift the isolation. measures.

Quebec’s main group of employers, the Quebec Employers Council, welcomed the provincial government’s decision, saying it hoped plans to reopen businesses would follow a similar schedule.

However, parents ‘associations and teachers’ unions have expressed concern that the government is rushing ahead without consulting enough before making a decision.

They fear that the security measures proposed, in particular reducing the size of the classrooms, will not be sufficient to prevent new epidemics.

It’s not about collective immunity, says Legault

At Monday’s press conference, Legault stressed that the goal of sending children back to school was not to develop collective immunity, an epidemiological concept that suggests that a population may become resistant to the virus a once a sufficient number of antibodies have been exposed to it.

Although Quebec has invoked the concept in the past, the World Health Organization and Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recently warned that there were too many uncertainties subject of COVID-19 to make collective immunity a public health objective.

Legault acknowledged the warnings on Monday, saying, “I want to be clear – we are reopening our schools for social reasons and because the situation is under control, especially in our hospital system.”

Prime Minister François Legault says elementary schools and daycares outside Montreal are expected to open on May 11, although attendance is not compulsory. Secondary schools, CEGEPs and universities will remain closed. 1:06

The province’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said that Quebeckers should not interpret this decision as a sign that it is safe to resume a pre-pandemic lifestyle. The ban on public gatherings will remain in effect.

Arruda warned that schools and businesses could be closed again if hospital admissions soar or people stop following physical distance guidelines.

“If the population does not keep its distance, we will lose everything and we will again be forced to confine intensively,” he said.

New projections suggest narrow window for easing restrictions

A pair of studies by Quebec researchers, released over the weekend, suggest that the province may have limited leeway in lifting the containment measures.

The studies were published by the province’s public health research institute, the Quebec National Institute of Public Health, which provides scientific advice to the government.

In a projection, the researchers estimate that if the containment measures imposed so far have reduced social interactions by 65%, then social interactions could be increased by 10 to 20% with a relatively small impact on hospitalizations and deaths .

However, if social interactions were reduced by less than 65%, a 10-20% increase in social interactions would lead to a drastic increase in the number of cases and deaths.

Public health director Horacio Arruda said Quebecers should not interpret the decision to open certain schools as a sign that it is safe to resume their pre-pandemic lifestyle. (Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press)

Projections do not specify to what extent Quebeckers have reduced their social interactions since the province went into lockout mode the week of March 23. This will be the subject of a subsequent study.

“The epidemiological situation of COVID-19 is fragile in Quebec,” specifies a slide that accompanies the studies.

“Giving up measures of social distancing (for example, gatherings or interactions of less than two meters) could shift the epidemiological curves from an optimistic situation to a pessimistic situation. “

“The next few days will be critical to confirming the path of the epidemic,” said the presentation.

Montreal police said for the most part on Monday that city residents followed public health guidelines, although officers have issued 1,841 tickets since the guidelines were put in place.

“Obviously, when the weather is nice, there are more people, and it can be more difficult to keep your distance, but still, it was still quite acceptable,” spokesperson for Radio-Canada told Radio-Canada. SPVM, André Durocher.

Durocher reminded people that they are not allowed to invite friends or family members into their home or backyard, even if they plan to maintain a distance of two meters from each other.

Instead, he suggested socializing with the neighbors from their respective balconies.

Long-term care homes are still struggling

The Prime Minister and Arruda, the provincial director of public health, continue to make a distinction between the situation of the general population and that of long-term care homes, or CHSLDs, where the epidemic has been most acute. murderous.

But after spending several weeks pleading with Qubecers of all stripes to help care for the elderly in CHSLDs, Legault is now expressing its confidence that the critical staff shortage will soon be resolved.

He said that 11,000 Quebecers showed up over the weekend to indicate their willingness to work in CHSLDs, where thousands of health care workers are sick, mainly due to exposure to the virus.

A primary school playground in Deux-Montagnes, Quebec. The provincial government announced today that elementary schools will gradually reopen by the end of the month. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

“It is as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” he said.

But the situation remains critical in many of the province’s long-term care and other types of homes for the aged, where most of the deaths have occurred.

Eighty-four additional deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours. Of these, 79 resided in CHSLDs.

With so many thousands of health workers infected, some replacement workers say they are being placed in long-term care homes without adequate training.

“There is despair on all faces”, says a volunteer.

Others with experience in CHSLDs say that they are don’t get the support they need – cause some to stop.

CBC Montreal revealed that four workers from a long-term care home in Laval, the CHSLD Fernand-Larocque, resigned on Friday.

One of the people who resigned, RN Valérie Gilbert, described “warlike” conditions at the CHSLD.

“I raise the white flag, I admit defeat,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m leaving this boat which sinks faster than the Titanic. “

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