To be fair, if you're a student in Quebec, this might be bad news but it's definitely good news for over-stressed parents. According to Premier François Legault, the province's back-to-school plan is moving forward as planned on Monday, January 17.
In a Facebook post, Legault said that "it's very important for children to go back to school, to learn, to get back with their friends, to regain a semblance of normality." All students, from elementary school to university, will have to enjoy their last weekend of freedom before heading back to class.
Legault claimed that "the vast majority of children do not face significant health risks with COVID. On the other hand," he said, "school delays and isolation can cause major problems."
The return to school could coincide with the removal of Quebec's controversial curfew. Reports indicate that the province is poised to lift the restriction on nighttime travel in the coming days.
Directly appealing to parents, Legault said that he understands if people might be worried about their child contracting COVID-19 while at school.
"What is reassuring is that 98% of high school teens are vaccinated with one dose and 89% with two doses," he said.
"Our primary school children are nearly 60% vaccinated for the first dose and their immune response is very strong at this age. Teachers, for their part, are massively vaccinated and have had priority access to the third dose since the end of December."
The government claims that rapid tests will be available in schools when kids return next week.
As for CEGEPs and universities, Legault said that students "will also be able to go back to school in person" but the institutions "will be given some leeway to adjust."
Health measures in Quebec will not be changing in the immediate future, according to Premier François Legault. Despite a slowdown and, most recently, a slight decrease in hospitalizations, the situation is still too fragile to justify relaxing Quebec COVID-19 rules, he said.
"We seem to have reached the peak of hospitalizations today at last," he began in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "Yes, we can predict a decrease in hospitalizations soon, but for the moment we are at the worst of the pandemic with 3,400 hospitalizations."
Legault acknowledged Quebecers who are antsy for things to return to normal as soon as possible.
"You wouldn't believe the number of people who write to me, who call me, who talk to me, who tell me they're fed up, who would like the measures to be lifted," he said, reiterating that to do so now would significantly risk the chance of more infections and hospitalization throughout the province.
"We are at 3,400 hospitalizations and we are missing about 12,000 health care workers, so we cannot afford to relax the measures."
The latest numbers and projections offer at least some encouraging news.
Quebec reported 14 fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations on January 20 — the first decrease in weeks. The Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) also said Thursday that though the number of hospitalizations remains high, it appears to have plateaued after weeks of what the institute called "exponential growth."
In the next two weeks, the INESSS forecasts new hospitalizations will drop to 200 per day, down from 353 in the January 20 report. It also expects a "stabilization" in intensive care unit occupancy.
Total COVID-19 hospitalizations could decrease to 3,000 in the next few weeks, as well.
The INESSS cautions, however, that its projections don't take into account the reopening of elementary and high schools on January 17, a factor Legault said Thursday could "have a small effect" on infections.
In its January 20 report, Quebec reported a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations for the first time in weeks. There were a total of 3,411 COVID-19 hospital patients, 14 fewer than the day before. 285 people were in intensive care — that number remained unchanged.
The January 20 daily report comes as the Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) releases its latest hospital occupancy projections. The institute noted that though hospitalizations are still high, they seem to have plateaued between January 8 and 14.
In the next two weeks, the INESSS projects the number of new patients admitted to a hospital every day will drop to around 200 (Quebec reported 352 new hospitalizations on January 20). Total hospitalizations, meanwhile, will drop to "about 3,000," according to the forecast — "still well above the level 4 [occupancy level] recently defined by the Ministry of Health," the INESSS says.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care is also expected to stabilize.
The INESSS notes, however, that these projections don't take into account changes in health measures, nor the potential effects of the reopening of Quebec elementary and high schools on January 17.
The province also tallied 6,528 new COVID-19 cases on January 20, though official case counts are considered inaccurate since PCR tests are no longer available to the general public.
There were 98 more deaths linked to the disease.
Premier François Legault is set to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon alongside Health Minister Christian Dubé and interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
The government of Quebec announced a new initiative to meet current and future labour needs in the childhood education services network. The plan, titled "opération main-d'œuvre," aims to recruit thousands of educators, in part through a student scholarship program offering up to $9,000.
The Minister of Families, Mathieu Lacombe, and the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, revealed the new measures as part of a $300 million government investment to enlist more people in the profession.
Starting September 2022, any CEGEP student enrolled full-time in an early childhood education program (Techniques d'éducation à l'enfance) is eligible to receive a $1,500 scholarship per completed semester, which represents a total of $9,000 for the entirety of the program, according to a press release.
The Quebec government launched "opération main-d'œuvre" on November 30, 2021, in order to meet increasing labour demands in health care, social services, education, and childcare.
In a statement, Lacombe said the new measures represent "concrete action to attract new people to this exceptional and above all essential profession for our children, but also for society as a whole."
Op\u00e9ration main-d\u2019\u0153uvre\n\nDes mesures sont annonc\u00e9es pour recruter 18 000 nouvelles \u00e9ducatrices et nouveaux \u00e9ducateurs, en plus d\u2019en qualifier 7 000 autres d\u00e9j\u00e0 en poste dans le r\u00e9seau actuel d\u2019ici 2026. \n\nhttp://bit.ly/3IdgpL3\u00a0pic.twitter.com/yqm7C5ZFt2
— Famille Qu\u00e9bec (@Famille Qu\u00e9bec)
The Quebec government is set to recruit 18,000 new educators, in addition to re-qualifying 7,000 child care workers already in the field; a goal they plan to reach by 2026.
Minister Jean Boulet assured the public that he is "convinced that with all the means deployed, in particular the many support measures for training and skills development from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, we will achieve our goal."
The government also announced plans to encourage retired and experienced workers to return to the field by offering a 6.6% salary bump until March 2023.
According to a new study conducted by Maru Public Opinion, 27% of Quebecers would approve of forcing the unvaccinated to "serve up to five days as part of a jail sentence for endangering others/overwhelming health care system," which is in line with the national average.
More than half of Quebecers (55%) surveyed wouldn't even feel bad for unvaccinated people who end up really sick — or dying — from COVID-19, also in line with the Canadian average. Currently, 12% of Quebecers surveyed admit to refusing the vaccine.
Maru contacted 1,506 Canadians — including 387 Quebecers — between January 14 and 15 for this survey. They note that "for comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20."
The reasons cited in the study for avoiding the vaccine were varied, ranging from the understandable to the ludicrous. Civil liberty was a concern for many: 45% of unvaccinated Canadians claimed they are defending their right to make their own choices, and 22% say they just don't like the government telling them what to do.
Fear seems to be another strong motivator: 42% of unvaccinated Canadians claimed to be waiting for more data about the vaccine's safety, and 28% said they're anxious or scared of the effects the vaccine may have.
32% of unvaccinated Canadians, meanwhile, simply said that their immune system could beat the virus if they got it, so they don't need a vaccine.
Misinformation and conspiracy theories have also contributed to anti-vax sentiments. 21% said they're concerned that the vaccine will affect their genetic structure. 9% still think that COVID-19 is a hoax, while 7% believe the vaccine is just a ploy to keep drug companies rich and 4% think it's a global conspiracy to control those who get it. 3% think the vaccine will give them COVID-19.
Finally, only 1% of unvaccinated Canadians claimed it was against their religion to get the vaccine.
On the other end of the spectrum, 67% of Quebecers think that the vaccine should be mandatory, which is just above the national average of 66%. 78% of people in Quebec support the provincial government's decision to require a vaccine passport to enter the SAQ, the SQDC and large stores. And amid the controversy, 66% of Quebecers support an anti-vax tax.
The strain on our health care system remains a concern for Quebecers. 60% of respondents think the unvaccinated should pay out of pocket for any medical assistance they need due to COVID-19, and 35% believe the unvaccinated shouldn't be treated in public health care facilities at all.