Montreal Gazette

Sherbrooke elementary school shuttered after COVID outbreak

- VIRGINIE ANN

A Quebec elementary school east of Montreal has been temporaril­y closed after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, officials said Monday.

The Coeur-immacule school in Sherbrooke sent more than 700 students home for at least two days after many students tested positive for COVID-19 over the last few days.

The school service centre responsibl­e for the region reported 33 new COVID -19 cases on Monday, including a teacher.

Donald Landry, an official with the centre, told The Canadian Press the decision to close the school came after public health authoritie­s recommende­d it as a way to prevent further transmissi­on.

“Essentiall­y, it allows parents to get their children tested and to reduce the risk of spread,” Landry said. “Many of us hoped to have a return to class without cases, but obviously with the Delta variant, we have cases.”

Landry said a decision on whether to keep the school closed for longer will depend on how many new cases are identified today.

Dr. Melissa Genereux, a public health official from the Estrie region, said the cases were observed in 13 different classes and included a teacher and students from kindergart­en to Grade 6. Genereux said the cases can be linked to students spending more time in common areas this year, such as the cafeteria and an absence of classroom bubbles.

“We've got a mix that facilitate­d the spread,” she said.

Education Minister Jeanfranço­is Roberge announced as the school year began that students would not be restricted to classroom bubbles and those in high school would be able to attend school full-time.

Meanwhile, a fear of outbreaks in the workplace was behind the province announcing Monday that civil servants won't be returning to work at the office on Oct. 4 as planned. Treasury Board Chair Sonia Lebel said in a statement that a new date will be announced once the pandemic situation allows it.

“The epidemiolo­gical situation prompts us to postpone the return to the workplace once again,” Lebel said. “As a responsibl­e employer, the health and safety of public service employees are of paramount importance.”

Quebec had asked companies across the province on Aug. 25 to reconsider plans to have employees return to offices, citing a worsening COVID-19 situation in the province.

At the time, the province delayed a return for all civil servants until at least Oct. 4. According to the province's public health institute, Quebec has 520 active outbreaks and 43.4 per cent are in workplaces.

The province reported 679 new cases of COVID -19 on Monday and one additional death attributed to the virus.

Health authoritie­s said hospitaliz­ations rose by three to 280, while the number of patients in intensive care climbed by five to 92.

The Health Department said of the latest reported infections, 457 were among people who were either unvaccinat­ed or who had only received a first dose within the past two weeks.

The province administer­ed 8,489 doses of a COVID -19 vaccine on Sunday.

About 88.9 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, while 84.4 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

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