Case numbers on the rise, 42 classrooms closed in preventative isolation
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Outaouais since the start of the pandemic reached 6,880 on March 21, marking a rise of 53 cases from the previous day. According to the Centre intégré de la santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), there were 286 active COVID-19 cases at that time.
With 167 deaths in the region so far – two more than last week - it noted that 6,276 people had recovered from the virus. With cases increasing steadily for the past month, CISSSO’s interim public health director Brigitte Pinard reported a daily increase of 37 cases last week. Pinard said the situation is particularly worrisome in urban areas - Aylmer and in Hull - mostly due to a general lightening of COVID-19 safety restrictions.
Eight people were hospitalized last week with one requiring intensive care, adding that 28 of CISSSO’s employees were actively infected. Over the previous week, CISSSO stated to have administered an average of 623 COVID-19 screening tests per day. CISSSO said that Gatineau’s urban core has accounted for the majority of coronavirus cases in the region with 5,058 cumulative cases and 212 active ones.
The MRC de Papineau has had 792 total cases, with eight active cases; the MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau has had 444 with 10 active cases; the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais has recorded 392 cases with 11 active ones; and the MRC de Pontiac has seen 84 total cases, with nine active ones. The origin of nine cases had yet to be determined.
Since the start of the pandemic, dozens of CISSSO’s health care facilities have experienced outbreaks, including the CHSLD de la Lionel-Émond in Gatineau with 112 total cases, 25 deaths, 17 active cases, and 70 people recovered; the RPA Chartwell Monastère d’Aylmer with 26 total cases, two deaths, and 24 people recovered; and Résidence la Gappe with 90 total cases, 15 deaths, five active cases, and 70 people recovered.
With more than 25 active outbreaks in the Outaouais – around 15 more than last week - Pinard reported nine new outbreaks in schools. That brings the total outbreaks in schools to 11, with 42 classes in preventative isolation. Two schools, Saint-Paul and L’École Montessori de l’Outaouais in Aylmer were temporarily closed last week, Pinard said.
On March 22, Western Quebec School Board communications consultant François Raymond confirmed one positive case at D’Arcy McGee high school. With 48 total cases in all WQSB schools since the beginning of the school year – as of March 19 – he noted that no classes were in preventative isolation. As students start going back to in-class learning full time, propagation risks should go up, Pinard said - urging people to be vigilant.“ More there is transmission in the community, there more there will be transmission in schools,” Pinard said.
The CSSPO has had to delay the return to in-class learning for the affected groups with outbreaks. Entire classes have been given the stay-home order, with teachers continuing the remote learning for an additional week to start. Students in the outbreak groups are required to show a negative test result before they and their siblings are permitted to return. No remote learning has been established for siblings.
While the region is now in the orange zone, Pinard said that community transmission is a considerable cause for recent spikes in cases – especially in Aylmer and in Hull - and urged people to strictly follow recommended safety measures. Encouraging people to wear a mask, washing hands, and avoiding unnecessary travel, she also reminded that the 9:30 pm curfew remains place, and that outdoor gatherings are to be limited to eight people. “We must individually limit our non-essential social contacts,” Pinard said, noting that avoiding COVID-19 related hospitalizations is crucial. “That’s key to controlling the transmission of the virus in our community.”
People wanting to get tested for COVID-19 are encouraged to consult CISSSO’s online self-assessment tool before calling 1-877-644-4545 to set up an appointment within 24 hours. The drop-in testing centre remains open on Saint-Raymond in Hull. More COVID-19 related information regarding the Outaouais is available on CISSSO’s website - https://cisss-outaouais.gouv.qc.ca/covid-19/.