Sarah Rennie and Nadia Geukjian
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to climb in the immediate and surrounding area, as the municipalities of Hemmingford, Sainte-Martine, and Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka are now reporting five or more cases each. All thirteen of the municipalities in the Haut-Saint-Laurent are still reporting fewer than five cases. There are 15 cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network. There are now 97 confirmed cases in the municipality of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, 118 cases in the Vaudreuil-Dorion, 39 cases in Mercier, and 95 in Chateauguay.
Across the province, there are now 20,965 confirmed cases, which is an increase of 839 over the past 24 hours. There are 1,278 individuals in hospital, with 199 being treated in intensive care. The coronavirus claimed another 93 lives, to bring the total number of deaths to 1,134. A further 62 cases were confirmed in the Montérégie, to bring the total number to 2,573, with 218 in hospital. There have been 69 deaths in the region.
Plan to restart the economy
During his daily briefing on the situation in Québec, Premier François Legault admitted that he had not been able to get enough medical specialists and doctors, nurses and orderlies from hospitals to fill the staff shortages in residences and CHSLDs. As a result, Legault officially requested the federal government send 1,000 members of the armed forces to help to bring the situation in the long-term care network under control.
The Premier suggested that it was as though there were two worlds right now within the province: the out-of-control situation playing out in the residences and CHSLDs; and the relatively stable situation off the island of Montreal and Laval. The regions, he suggested, are doing quite well. For this reason, he said, a plan for the gradual reopening of schools in regions where the situation was stable would be presented as early as next week. A plan to relaunch the economy and open businesses is also scheduled to be tabled by next week. There will be guidelines and “it will be very gradual,” Legault insisted, saying “we do not want to see a second wave.”
The Premier was also adamant that the remaining weeks in the school year would not be considered mandatory, and that parents who were not comfortable sending their children to school would not be required to do so. “Our challenge will be to restart the economy without restarting the pandemic,” said Legault, promising that public health would remain the top priority for his government and that the path forward into this new phase would be very gradual and closely monitored.
As for lifting restrictions on gatherings, cultural activities and sports events, Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director, admitted these might last until 2021. “It is possible we will still be talking about coronavirus in 2021 and right into 2022.”
Help for post-secondary students
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $9 billion to help post-secondary students, many of whom are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit. “What you’re going through matters, and we want to be sure you’ll be OK,” said Trudeau. Several measures were introduced to help students across the country immediately, over the summer and for the coming year.
The Canadian Emergency Student Benefit was created to provide students needing immediate financial assistance with $1,250 a month for the months of May to August. This amount increases up to $1,750 for students caring for someone else or with a disability. The benefit is available to post-secondary students, those starting college in September or those who graduated after December 2019. The benefit has even been extended to students who currently have a job but are making less than $1000 a month. Funds will be available through the Canada Revenue Agency.
Trudeau announced a total of $291 million is being allocated to extend scholarships, fellowships and grants for 3-4 months for research and graduate students. A further $75 million will go to support to Inuit, First Nations and Métis Nation students.
The government is also announced that, in addition to the Summer Jobs Program, they will be creating 76,000 jobs in sectors that need extra help right now to help those students finding it hard to get a job. Students choosing to volunteer in the fight against COVID-19 will soon be eligible for $1000-$5000 (depending on the hours of work), through the new Canada Student Service Grant.
Finally, the government will be doubling grants for the 2020-21 school year, and money will be provided to supplement funding already in place in Québec, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.