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Quebec extends mask mandate until May; recommends second booster

Valley residents may want to replenish their stash of face masks as the province moved Tuesday to continue mandatory mask wearing in public spaces until the end of April.

Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health director, made the announcement during a press conference, saying the virus was still circulating considerably and he preferred a more careful approach. “It is spreading very rapidly and the impact on the community and the hospital capacity is really worrying,” he said.

“We are not adding new measures to control it, but we are asking [people] to continue to wear the mask for a couple of weeks,” he added, saying this would help the situation. He insisted there were no plans to introduce any further measures, regardless of expected increases in gatherings over the Easter weekend, Passover and throughout Ramadan.

Quebec has seen a sharp increase in cases over the past week, and with hospitalizations surging, Boileau said it was important to recognize the potential severity of the sixth wave. He cautioned that the BA.2 variant was now the dominant strain circulating in the province, while reminding Quebecers to isolate for five days following a positive test result and to then minimize contacts for an additional five days.

Vaccine still effective

According to public health experts, those aged 60 and older are more at risk of severe illness and hospitalization. Boileau explained that vaccines remain an essential tool in fighting the virus, suggesting the general population should be profiting from the protection offered by a third dose. Public health is also now recommending a fourth dose or second booster for those aged 70 and older. As of Monday, those who are 60 and older may also book an appointment.

A walk-in vaccination clinic will take place each Wednesday throughout the month of April at the Huntingdon Legion from 1 to 7 p.m. People over the age of 70, as well as those who are immunocompromised, may now book appointments for a fourth dose. Those who have not yet completed their vaccination sequence (two doses plus a booster), including children, are also welcome with or without an appointment.

As of April 3, only 49 per cent of the eligible population in the Haut-Saint-Laurent are triple vaccinated, however almost 83 per cent of those 60 and older have received at least a third dose.

Local statistics

Hospitalizations have been increasing over the last three weeks in the Montérégie. There are currently five patients being treated with the virus at the Barrie Memorial Hospital in Ormstown, as well as 20 patients at the Anna Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay, and 30 patients at the Suroît Hospital in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, including two individuals in intensive care.

In the 24 hours preceding April 6, there were 42 positive cases recorded in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN), as well as 158 cases in the Suroît LHN, an additional 356 cases in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN, and 713 cases in the Jardins-Roussillon LHN. These numbers underrepresent the actual spread of the virus however, as they represent only those cases reported to the government from PCR testing sites.

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