Masks are no longer mandatory in public spaces across Quebec, except on public transportation and in healthcare institutions such as hospitals, medical clinics, and in public long-term care residences.
The public health measure, which was first imposed in July 2020, was officially lifted over the weekend. Masks must still be worn for the five days following an isolation period by those who have tested positive for COVID-19, and for ten days by those living with someone who tests positive. Continued wearing of masks is recommended for immune-compromised individuals and those with respiratory illness, as well as for people who work or are in contact with vulnerable populations. Quebec’s interim director of public health, Dr. Luc Boileau, has also suggested masks be worn wherever a comfortable distance between individuals cannot be maintained, or by those who are simply uncomfortable with removing their masks at this time.
The Quebec Order of Pharmacies has asked that people continue to wear a mask when approaching the drug counter; other private businesses will be able to set their own rules when it comes to asking customers or employees to wear masks.
New Frontiers School Board general director Rob Buttars confirms that students and staff at all levels are no longer required to wear masks in any circumstance within schools or on school transportation, unless they are returning from a COVID-related isolation. In this instance, students will be required to wear a mask for the first five calendar days following their return to class. “We will continue to provide masks until the end of the year,” says Buttars, noting students or parents who wish for their children to continue wearing masks will be able to have them do so. The NFSB will also be continuing with touch-point cleaning protocols within its schools.
“Our case numbers have significantly dropped across the board,” Buttars says, while admitting there continues to be some isolated cases that crop up now and again. For the most part, he says there does not seem to be as much anxiety as in the past when measures were lifted. “Now we are getting ready for graduations, which will be a welcome change from the last couple of years,” he says, suggesting things are falling into place for a more “normal” end to the school year.
Over 50 per cent of the eligible population in the Haut-Saint-Laurent has now been vaccinated for a third time, and over 10.5 per cent have received a second booster or fourth dose. The government continues to recommend booster shots for those over the age of 60 as a way of fending off Omicron and its variants.
Hospitalizations are dropping, with under five patients currently being treated at the Barrie Memorial Hospital, while 27 individuals have been admitted with the virus to the Suroît Hospital in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and an additional 51 have been hospitalized at the Anna Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay.
The most recent statistics for positive cases identified at limited-access government testing facilities suggests the virus is still very present in the region. As of May 13, there were 21 cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN), while the Beauharnois-Salaberry LHN reported 93 cases, the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN identified 171 cases, and the Jardins-Roussillon LHN recorded 383 new cases.