Province considering closing schools again

By Gordon Lambie
Province considering closing schools again

After months of prioritizing keeping them open, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Thursday that the province is considering the possibility of a second province-wide school closure in the midst of a much more serious second wave of COVID-19.
“Schools are a place of transmission, which is why we are evaluating closing the schools for a limited period of time,” the premier said, underlining the fact that the preferred course of action would still be to keep classes open as much as possible. “The last places we want to close are the schools,” he added.
Legault said that should the decision be made to have another school shutdown, it would be for a well-defined and pre-set period of time. He offered the example of extending the usual Christmas break, with the potential of extending the school year into the summer to make up for lost time, although he stressed that no decision has been made yet one way or the other.
“We have to consider all our options,” he said.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 1,174 classes closed due to infection across the province, 324 of which had been closed within the previous two days.
Quebec reported 1,365 new cases alongside 42 new deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations increased by ten to 583, and the number of people in intensive care increased by two to 86.
Thursday also marked the first day under the red alert level in the Eastern Townships.
Regional public health director Dr. Alain Poirier held a virtual update on the local situation via Facebook live on Thursday morning, during which he reminded the population of the new restrictions now in place.
The Estrie region reported 73 new cases, four new deaths, and two new hospitalizations with infection spread across the entire region.
Poirier mentioned that there are now more than 74 individual outbreaks being monitored across the region, primarily in school environments and private businesses. Although that number is high, he noted that the majority of the outbreaks remain small due to cooperation on the part of the population.
To the question of why he had not opted to only apply the highest level of restrictions to sub-regions within the Estrie, as has been done elsewhere, the public health director said that there is no evidence that the approach was actually effective.
“When this approach was taken in other regions, before long there were cases everywhere,” Poirier said.
Many of the questions during the morning update dwelt on how long Townshippers should expect to be under a red alert. To these questions, the public health director pointed out that everything depends on community cooperation and the rate of transmission. While full cooperation might turn things around in as little as three weeks, he said that it is hard to know how things will go without knowing how the community will respond. That in mind, he repeated his past messages on the importance of cooperating with contact-tracing efforts and respecting quarantine and isolation periods.
“If we all work together, then we can ask for a lower level of restriction,” he said, explaining that the call will be in the hands of the public health department based on the data available, when it comes.

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