Quebec says 41 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 since reopening

 

MONTREAL -- More than 40 staff and students tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area opened on May 11, Quebec's Education Department confirmed Friday.

A survey of school boards conducted May 25 found that 19 students and 22 staff members were found to be infected in the first two weeks following the reopening.

The highest numbers of cases were in school boards in the Laurentians and Monteregie regions north and southeast of Montreal, with 10 cases each.

The survey is lacking numbers from 12 of the province's 72 school boards, which did not provide data to the province.

The province's director of public health said Thursday that while there have been cases in schools, they have not caused any "significant negative impacts." Dr. Horacio Arruda said some cases are to be expected as society returns to normal, but the situation is under control.

"It's normal that by having the daycare, the school being open to the community, there can be cases," he said at a briefing in Quebec City.

"The advantage in those areas, is that they're young children, and we didn't put any personnel who was high-risk (in the classroom)," he said.

Arruda said he believed that one school had to close temporarily because several teachers were infected, but most of the cases elsewhere have been isolated. Some of the teachers had become infected before the school opened, he added.

Another child at a daycare in the Quebec City region was also sent home from daycare after a parent tested positive, Arruda said.

The province allowed elementary schools outside the Montreal area to reopen on May 11 but has cancelled the rest of the school year in Montreal, which surpassed 25,000 cases on Friday.

High schools and junior colleges across the province will also reopen only at the end of August.

A spokesman for the Education Department said about 46 per cent of public school and 51 per cent of private school students outside Montreal returned to class the week of May 11.

Meanwhile, Quebec passed the 50,000-case mark on Friday as the province reported 530 new cases and 61 additional deaths.

Premier Francois Legault said Friday that the province's biggest challenge remains staffing in long-term care homes, where nearly 64 per cent of the province's 4,363 deaths have occurred. 

His government is launching a campaign with the goal of recruiting 10,000 people to work as orderlies in the homes by mid-September and has been depending on the work of more than 1,000 soldiers are deployed in 25 of the province's hardest-hit homes.

Legault said he used Thursday's first ministers' call to repeat his request for the soldiers to stay until the fall, when it is hoped the new recruits will be on the job.

While Ottawa has previously appeared reluctant, Legault said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared more open to the idea than previously.

"He said he would like to discuss that with me soon, and he understands we need those people until mid-September," Legault said in Joliette, north of Montreal.

Despite the situation in long-term care homes, Legault noted that the number of new cases has been dropping in recent days, even as the province has boosted tests to about 14,000 a day.

The news, he said, was good enough to announce that hairdressers, nail salons and other personal care businesses would be able to open in the Montreal area on June 15.

Legault said that while he's been able to rely on his wife for haircuts, some people aren't so lucky.

The premier said he believes haircuts can be performed safely, as long as both parties wear a mask and wash their hands.

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