The Gleaner
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Pandemic’s sixth wave sweeps into the Valley

The Valley has been swept into the sixth wave of the pandemic, as cases begin to swell once again across the region.

New Frontiers School Board director general Rob Buttars says cases are also on the rise in schools. As of last week, at least 4.2 per cent of those reported absent from all NFSB schools and centres were either in isolation or had tested positive for the virus. The COVID-related absenteeism rate was 5.2 per cent among elementary school students, 4.1 per cent at the high school level, and 0.4 per cent in the adult sector.

“People are nervous,” Buttars says, noting that parents have been more careful in recent days to keep children home if they are experiencing symptoms. He suggests there are signs the education ministry is also reacting to the growing number of cases in schools. “We were advised by the ministry that our supply of rapid tests would be replenished, including kits to go home to families,” says Buttars. The move implies that schools will be asked to continue to monitor and manage the impact of COVID within their buildings.

Quebec’s interim director of public health, Luc Boileau, has acknowledged that Quebec is now in a sixth wave of the pandemic; he is expected to advise the government to push back the lifting of mask mandates. Buttars says there has been no indication from the ministry that mask mandates will be maintained in schools if they are generally removed as planned in mid-April; however, he is fairly certain some decisions are forthcoming. “I’ll certainly be happy to see the backside of this, but we have come this far, and we want to remain prudent,” he says.

Cases are increasing in the area as well, with 36 positive results recorded in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network in the 24 hours preceding April 3. An additional 153 cases were reported in the Suroît LHN, as well as 329 in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN, and 645 in the Jardins-Roussillon LHN. These statistics underrepresent the virus’ spread, as they include only those reported to the government from PCR testing sites.

There are currently five individuals being treated at the Barrie Memorial Hospital, as well as 33 at the Suroît Hospital in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and 23 at the Anna Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay.

Vaccination rates in the Haut-Saint-Laurent have barely budged in recent weeks, despite efforts by the Montérégie-West Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO) to hold targeted walk-in and mobile clinics throughout the region during the month of March. The Haut-Saint-Laurent is the only MRC in the Montérégie where less than 80 per cent of eligible residents are adequately vaccinated. At least 48.6 per cent of the population has received a booster shot, and the government is now suggesting vulnerable people and those over the age of 80 consider a second booster shot.

A walk-in vaccination clinic will take place at the Huntingdon Legion every Wednesday in April, from 1 to 7 p.m. All those over the age of 80 or individuals who are immunocompromised will be able to access a fourth dose, while anyone who has not completed their vaccination sequence, children included, are welcome with or without an appointment.

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