By Gordon Lambie
Premier Francois Legault used the first of his newly restarted weekly public health updates to announce that vaccination will now be mandatory for all healthcare workers in the province as a part of the effort to combat the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Legault said that although it is laudable that roughly 90 per cent are already vaccinated, the remaining 10 per cent represent “a real risk” because of their working in proximity to a vulnerable population.
Health Minister Christian Dubé explained that the decision was made based on the fact that Quebec is starting to see cases of the more virulent Delta variant turn up in long term care homes.
“A very rapid decision was needed,” Dubé said.
Provincial Public health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said that the consequences of workers not getting the vaccine are still the subject of discussions, but he chose to use the term “administrative penalties” as an alternative when asked if people could lose their jobs over the matter.
Legault added that mandatory vaccination is limited to the healthcare network “for the time being.”
In the education sector, the premier said that masks will be mandatory in all parts of Universities and CEGEPS in the fall. He justified the decision by pointing out that the province’s 17-29 year olds have been the most hesitant to get vaccinated and that post-secondary institutions typically bring together students from far and wide. The announcement does not change the mask rules for elementary and secondary schools, where students are only required to wear them in indoor common spaces, although Legault said that the government is expecting an opinion from Public health on this “in the coming days.”
The Province of Quebec reported 323 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of people infected to 382,319 with 2,971 active cases. No new deaths were reported, but the number of hospitalizations increased by six, to 88. Of that total 27 were in intensive care.
In the Eastern Townships, 79 new cases were recorded since last Friday, bringing the number of active cases in the region to 177. Sherbrooke has the highest number of active cases, with 89, followed by the Haute-Yamaska region, with 61. Memphrémagog has 10 while the Pommeraie area recorded eight. The Haut-Saint-François has two active cases and the Des Sources and Coaticook regions are both reporting one, with one additional case not linked to a particular area.
There were no new deaths in the Eastern Townships, and the number of people in hospital for reasons related to COVID-19 decreased by one, to six. Only one of those people is now in intensive care.
The local vaccination campaign has now reached 82.3 per cent coverage for first doses and 72 per cent coverage for a second dose. Across the province, 74.9 per cent of the total population has now had at least one dose, and 75.6 per cent of the eligible population is now considered adequately vaccinated.
The province also announced the second round of winners in the vaccine lottery program. Jocelyne Thibodeau of Laval became the second person to win $150,000, after last week’s inaugural winner, Jean-Gabriel Mercier-Rancourt, who is from the Montérégie. Marilou Leroux, who is from the Eastern Townships, and Nathan Francœur Rivest from Lanaudiere both won $10,000 education bursaries, following in the footsteps of Anaïs S Mc Murray from Montréal and Thomas Langlais of the Montérégie, who won last week. The next draw will take place this coming Friday, with winners announced on Tuesday, August 24.