Estrie in the yellow as new alert system goes public

By Gordon Lambie

The Estrie administrative region is one of four across the province that are in the pre-alert stage of Quebec’s new COVID-19 regional alert system. Launched for the public by Health Minister Christian Dubé on Tuesday, the four-stage alert system is colour coded from green to yellow to orange to red, and has already been in place within the province’s healthcare networks for several weeks.
Speaking at a press conference in Montreal, Dubé referred to the system as a tool to help guide community response and prevent future spread of the virus.
“The unfortunate reality is that we are seeing new outbreaks,” the health minister said, explaining that the regional alerts will help cater the response to these outbreaks as needed within their regions.
The new scale calls for different levels of response depending on three criteria: the number of cases per 100,000 people, the capacity of the healthcare network, and the rate of spread. Any
One of these factors being high could put a region into the yellow pre-alert phase, while it would take a combination of risk factors to push into the orange “moderate alert” or red “maximum alert” levels where more serious shutdowns and limitations on gatherings are put in place.
Based on data from the week of August 30 to September 5, the Capitale National, Outaouais, and Laval Regions join the Estrie in the pre-alert stage, although provincial public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda pointed out that the reason for the heightened alert is different depending on which area one looks at. All other regions in the province are currently considered to be in the green, vigilance level.
Dr. Alain Poirier, director of public health for the Estrie Region, underlined this point by saying that the yellow status in the townships is tied almost completely to the surge of cases in Sherbrooke’s Ascot district.
“It is not all of the Estrie,” he said. “It is not even all of Sherbrooke.”
Poirier stressed the fact that the yellow alert was based on the fact that the daily case numbers climbed above 20 over the course of several days last week. He went on to say that those numbers have since dropped back into the single digits, meaning that the rating for this week will likely read as green when the status is updated next week.
Although the Ascot situation did inflate local number, the public health director also said that they were slightly misleading because the infected included several large family groups that were, in some cases, living very close to each other. He also observed that the groups were from cultural communities with limited or no French, which made the resources available to inform the population about health and safety measures currently in place limited in their usefulness.
On a different subject, Poirier said that the public health department is currently examining whether it is necessary to visit local bars and remind business owners about the health and safety measures currently required of them. He called the weekend report of two Sherbrooke bars found to be in violation of a number of different measures troubling, but said that so far as he is aware at this point, the bars in question were the exception rather than the rule. He nonetheless cautioned bar patrons, employees, and owners to be careful, citing the example of the Quebec City karaoke night that has now been linked to more than 60 cases in that region.
According to a report by the Canadian Press, up to 120 schools may have already been affected by COVID-19 since classes began last week, with 70 having recorded at least one case since September 1 across the elementary and high school levels.
The remaining 50 schools, 19 of which are in the Montreal area, are listed as having potential cases. The government says these schools will need to be verified because the information was not transmitted through the established process.
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge told a news conference in Quebec City that there have been 118 confirmed COVID-19 cases among teachers and students since classes resumed, although Poirier said that the cases reported in Eastern Townships schools have so far been as a result of spread in the home, rather than infections in the schools themselves.
Quebec health authorities reported 163 new cases of COVID-19 across the province Tuesday and no additional deaths. Previously, the province had seen two straight days with more than 200 new cases. The number of hospitalizations related to the virus remained at 105, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped to 15.
Quebec has now seen 63,876 cases of COVID-19 and 5,770 deaths since the pandemic began.
In the Estrie region, seven new cases were added to the total, while an additional 76 people were added to the list of those considered recovered. Two people remain hospitalized for the virus in the region, one of whom is in intensive care. Granby MNA and Minister of Transport Francois Bonnardel was also reported to have placed himself in isolation while awaiting a COVID test. Bonnardel was at a press conference last week with Longeuil Mayor Sylvie Parent, who received a positive diagnosis on Sunday.

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