By Gordon Lambie
Quebec’s Health Minister, Christian Dubé, backtracked on the province’s commitment to mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers again on Wednesday. The deadline of Nov. 15, originally set at Oct. 15, was removed altogether based on simulations of what would happen if the unvaccinated frontline healthcare workers were removed from the network.
“To deprive ourselves of 8,000 people would have devastating consequences for our network,” Dubé said, describing the decision as a move “from mandatory vaccination to mandatory screening.”
As a result of the decision, COVID-19 vaccination will no longer be mandatory for current health network employees but will be required for any new hires. Those workers who choose to remain unvaccinated will continue to be denied bonuses, and will be required to undergo screening tests at least three times per week or risk suspension without pay.
Addressing those workers, the health minister argued that they have “a moral duty to protect the people they treat,” and repeated the request that as many get the shot as possible.
Although the second reversal of the government’s vaccination mandate could easily be presented as a defeat, Dubé tried to frame the whole process in a positive light by referring to the progress made in the vaccination rate of healthcare workers since the initial announcement.
“The good news is that today we have 97 per cent of our health care employees who have received at least one dose,” he said, calling the figure “great but not perfect.”
The Province of Quebec reported 525 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of people infected to 427,472 with 4,678 active cases. There were eight new deaths recorded, for a total of 11,510 since the start of the pandemic
Although 15 more people were admitted to hospital for Covid compared to the previous day, he overall number of hospitalizations decreased by two, to 248. Meanwhile only two more people were put in intensive care due to the virus which, combined with three discharges, meant that the overall number of people in intensive care decreased by one to 70.
In the Eastern Townships the number of active cases reported by the INSPQ was nearly as high as it was at the end of May, reaching 399. Of that total, 19 were in la Pommeraie, 70 in the Haute Yamaska, 19 in Memphremagog, 5 in the Coaticook area, 133 in Sherbrooke, 20 in the Val Saint-François, 14 in Des Sources, 92 in the Haut-Saint-François, 25 in Granit, and two not assigned to a particular region.
According to CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS communications representative Marie-Ève Nadeau, the increase in cases in the Haut-Saint-François is due in large part to an outbreak at the Polyvalente Louis-St-Laurent in East Angus. That school is currently closed until Friday to help prevent further spread, but at the moment there is no cluster declared for the region as a whole. Anyone in the area who experiences COVID-19-related symptoms is encouraged to get tested as soon as possible.
By Gordon Lambie