Quebec does not intend to shut down its daycare network if there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the province, health officials said Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Families Minister Mathieu Lacombe said daycares are a “less important vector of transmission” of COVID-19 and the risk to keeping them open is “very low.”
“We do not intend to shut down the entire childcare network and to put in place emergency children services as we did during the first wave,” Lacombe said.
Quebec had its first COVID-19 outbreak at a daycare in May, when 12 children and four employees at a centre in Mascouche, in the Laurentians region just north of Montreal, tested positive for the disease.
The potential spread of COVID-19 in daycares and in schools has been a major source of concern for parents and educators across the province, which has reported 62,056 total COVID-19 cases and 5,750 deaths since the pandemic began.
But Lacombe said the overall number of COVID-19 cases in daycares has been “marginal.” He said 123 COVID-19 cases have been reported across thousands of Quebec daycares since March, 57 of which involved children.
“Even in Montreal, where there was a situation (that was) maybe worse than elsewhere in Quebec, we didn’t have a lot of cases,” Lacombe said.
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Public health officials said Thursday that individual daycares could be closed should they report an outbreak of COVID-19, however.
“Once you have a second case in a daycare that’s linked with the first one, that’s what we call an outbreak,” Dr. Richard Masse, an adviser to Quebec’s public health agency, told reporters.
The government released a COVID-19 self-assessment tool that helps users identify symptoms. Once the online questionnaire is completed it will give users a recommendation on the next steps to follow.
Educators say the new tool will be a big help in keeping possibly infected kids at home
St. Mary’s Daycare Executive Director Gina Gasparrini said the new tool will be a big help in keeping possibly infected kids at home.
“The parents, the night before, the morning and in the middle of the night, whenever their child has a symptom they go on that tool and they know right away what they have to do,” she said.
Completely supportive of the government’s plan, CSN President Jeff Begley said the tool “was well thought out” and they are crossing their fingers it’s going to be what helps get daycares through the second wave successfully.
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“We’re pleased with the constructive work that has been done since the first wave,” said Begley. So pleased he even thinks other ministry’s should take queues from the Family Ministry
“I think the ministry of family could coach a little bit the ministry of health and social services to really mobilize everybody, to get things working well,” he said.
The union and daycare educators are in agreement with the government’s intentions, and feel prepared to stay open despite the looming second wave.
“I think that the children need us, it’s too disruptive to just stop life like that, they need the social interactions and they need regular routine,” said St. Mary’s Daycare Educator Melissa Bailey.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health authorities said Thursday that one death occurred in the past 24 hours while two others occurred before Aug. 20.
Authorities also said hospitalizations increased by five since Wednesday, for a total of 115. Of those, 15 patients were in intensive care, an increase of three from the previous day.
The province said it carried out 16,020 COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, the last day for which testing data is available.
— With files from Global’s Olivia O’Malley