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COVID-19: Red zone restrictions begin, cases continue to rise

Parents of students attending Heritage Elementary School received the dreaded letter on Wednesday explaining that a someone in the school community had tested positive for COVID-19. The class was immediately sent home for the day, and parents were informed of the situation. Fortunately, the student had not been in attendance during the contagious period and public health authorities suggested the class could return to school as early as the next day.

“It is troubling times to do that,” says New Frontiers School Board Director General Rob Buttars, of having to send out the letter and close classrooms suddenly. “It is a disruption for many when you have to send a class home,” he acknowledges, suggesting the case at Heritage serves as a reminder that we are not immune in the Valley.

The NFSB currently has a class that has been closed at Howard S. Billings High School as a result of a student being diagnosed with the virus who had been attending classes. A similar situation has seen a class sent home from St-Wilibrord Elementary School as well. “We are on the lower end,” says Buttars of the number of cases diagnosed so far at the NFSB in comparison with some of the more urban school boards that have dealt with outbreaks and complete school closures.

As of Friday, the entire Montérégie region was included in the highest alert or red level, which ushered in a number of strict new restrictions and measures, including changes at the high school level for local schools where students and staff will now be expected to wear masks at all times while grade 10 will join grade 11 students in a hybrid learning model. All gatherings, private and public, are now forbidden and most activities outside of work and school, stores and essential services are now closed until the end of the month at a minimum. Restaurants have had to close their dining rooms; but are able to provide take-out and delivery services.

According to Dr. Julie Loslier, the director of the Direction du Santé Publique de la Montérégie, the Montérégie is now amongst the worst, if not the worst, region in terms of the progression of the virus in recent weeks. “It is worrisome,” she admitted during a video posted to facebook, while suggesting that the number of outbreaks had almost doubled in the past week. She noted there continue to be outbreaks in schools and workplaces, but increasingly, there are cases being diagnosed in residences and CHSLDs.

Dr. Loslier distinguished between the number of cases and the rate of infection, suggesting this was one of the aspects they looked at when determining whether the entire region should be moved to the red alert. The rate of infection is significant as it takes into consideration the number of cases per 100,000 individuals. By this measurement, a small number of cases can have a significant impact. For example, the Haut-Saint-Laurent currently has significantly fewer cases than either Salaberry-de-Valleyfield or Vaudreuil-Soulanges, but the current rate of infection is 86.26/100,000, which is higher than that of both our urban neighbours, who are currently at 62.79 and 41.87 per 100,000 individuals, respectively.

The number of cases in the Montérégie climbed by a further 1089 cases between Oct. 8 and 14, with the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent adding an additional 14 cases. The MRC des Jardins de Napierville added 21 cases, while the MRC de Beauharnois-Salaberry saw an increase of 62 cases, and the MRC de Vaudreuil-Soulanges saw 71 cases added to the tally.

Cumulatively, there have now been 44 cases in Huntingdon, 19 in Ormstown, 20 in Franklin, 16 each in Ste-Barbe and Hemmingford, 13 in St-Chrysostome, 10 in Godmanchester, 8 in Howick, 7 in Hinchinbrooke, and 6 in St-Anicet. Only Dundee, Elgin, Très-Saint-Sacrement, and Havelock have reported less than 5 cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic.

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