By Gordon Lambie
Last Friday Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services called on the staff of schools and daycare centres in the province to immediately stop using the grey and blue SNN200642 masks that had been distributed to them after Health Canada issued a warning that the equipment was made with a substance that could potentially cause lung damage.
A process is underway to determine which facilities may have received the potentially toxic masks.
The notice from the province emphasized the fact that the warning does not apply to the pediatric masks given to children, but the notice nonetheless generated concern in the community at large about the way the government is addressing the safety of schools and their staff during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the significant increase in new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province last Thursday proved not to be a fluke over the weekend. Another 950 new cases were reported on Friday followed by 1,009 on Saturday and 917 on Sunday after having hovered closer to 700 for some time. This shift brought the total number of people infected since the start of the pandemic to 308,311 and increased the number of active cases by nearly 700, to 7,837. The increase in COVID-related deaths was relatively small by comparison, with only 17 more being reported across the entire province over the course of those three days.
The number of overall COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec decreased by 16, to 480, since The Record’s last report, and the number of people in intensive care decreased by three to reach 114.
As of 11 a.m. Sunday, 14.4 per cent of Quebec’s population had received at least one of the two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 1,222,844 doses having been administered out of the 1,380,295 doses received in total. The average number of vaccine doses given per day over the last week was 39,516. In the Eastern Townships, 51,485 doses have been given to date.
New cases also went up in the Eastern Townships, with the number of active cases in the region increasing by 21 over the weekend from 107 to 128.
As of Sunday’s figures there were nine active cases in the Pommeraie area (Including Cowansville, Brome Lake, Sutton and Farnham) , 19 in the Haute Yamaska (which includes Granby, Waterloo, and Bromont), 10 in Memphrémagog ( Magog, Mansonville, Ayer’s Cliff and the Hatleys), seven in the Coaticook area, 40 in the Sherbrooke area, 13 in the Val Saint-François (including Richmond, Valcourt and Windsor), 18 in Des Sources (formerly known as Asbestos), two in the Haut-Saint-François (Cookshire, Weedon, Scotstown), nine in Granit (Lac Megantic), and one not tied to a particular region.
The CIUSSS de l’Estrie-CHUS issued a targeted call for testing for anyone who visited the Entrepôt Chaussures P.R.I.X. at 2,700, King West from the 22 and 24 of March between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or on March 25 between 9 a.m. and noon. Although there is no outbreak reported at the location as of yet, an individual with a confirmed variant was present and contagious during those times.
There was one new death in the Townships on Sunday, linked to the ongoing outbreak at the Manoir Jeffrey home in the Des Sources region. This was the region’s first COVID-linked death since the previous Monday. The number of hospitalizations decreased to a total of eight, and the number of people in intensive care dropped back down to three.
The INSPQ, Quebec’s institute of public health, changed the way it reported on variant cases over the weekend, considering all the cases previously referred to as “presumptive cases” as confirmed. As of Sunday the institute was reporting 6,118 cases confirmed altogether, 86 of which have been in the Estrie region.
The INSPQ’s predictions based on current information indicate that variant cases will surpass 50 per cent of all confirmed cases in the province by next week, and are likely to represent close to all cases by mid-May. The institute’s models also indicate that, even with strict adherence to public health measures already in force, cases will likely increase toward a third wave through the months of April and May, although hospitalizations and deaths are not expected to rise as dramatically due to the increase in vaccination of the province’s most vulnerable individuals.