Elementary school-aged children will be bringing home much more than Christmas-themed crafts before the holidays this year. Each child in the Montérégie region will be receiving a kit including five rapid COVID-19 tests and instructions, to be used over the Christmas break to reduce the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“As soon as we get them, we will distribute them,” says the director general of the New Frontiers School Board (NFSB), Rob Buttars, while confirming the announcement made by the Education Ministry that parent-controlled rapid tests would be used as a tool to help keep schools and classes open. The kits will also prove handy in ensuring that children who are unvaccinated or who have received a single dose do not unintentionally infect family members at holiday gatherings.
“If they are helpful, parents should use them,” says Buttars, though he cautions that the rapid tests do not replace the more traditional screening tests. For example, a positive result must be followed up with a test done at a screening centre.
Positive response to vaccination campaign
Even though case counts in Valley schools continue to remain very low, parents have been quick to respond to the vaccination campaign launched on December 1. At least 225 students between the ages of 5 and 11 attending elementary schools within the NFSB were vaccinated in school over the last week, including 49 children at Ormstown Elementary School alone. The mobile vaccination units deployed by the Montérégie-Ouest Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO) were present at schools across the Valley this past week.
Students attending schools in Chateauguay were bused to a nearby vaccination centre, while those attending Gault Institute in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield walked to a neighbouring centre.
Buttars confirms the same protocols will be in place during the first week of February, when those students who received a first dose will be eligible to receive their second shot. In the Haut-Saint-Laurent, just over 28 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose, which suggests a significant number of children have been taken by their parents to vaccination centres as well.
Cases rising in surrounding areas
Currently, there are 19 cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN); however, the case counts in the surrounding region have been increasing rapidly. There are now at least 115 positive cases in the Suroît LHN, 208 in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN, and 333 in the Jardins-Roussillon LHN, including approximately 54 cases in the MRC des Jardins-de-Napierville.
The Direction de Santé Publique de la Montérégie is advising that all those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 be tested, regardless of their vaccination status. There are now 119 active outbreaks, of which 36 are in school environments and 33 in workplaces.