How a school outbreak in a small Gaspé town isolated nearly a fifth of residents

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More than 50 people from the village of Marsoui, Quebec, are in administrative segregation after an elementary school was hit by an outbreak of COVID-19.

Public health officials say the outbreak has been well contained so far, but with the village housing a total of 275 people, the outbreak means nearly a fifth of residents must stay home.

“This shows us how a single case can have a lot of impact on a population,” Dr Yv Bonnier-Viger, the region’s director of public health, said at a press conference on Thursday.

According to the local health authority – the CISSS de la Gaspésie – the epidemic began when a student tested positive for COVID-19 at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges elementary school on Monday.

There are only about 30 children at school, so Bonnier-Viger says it was necessary to shut it down and ensure that all students and their families self-isolate as a measure of precaution.

“In the context of the variants now, we have to test everyone who may have come in contact with the virus,” Bonnier-Viger said.

As of Wednesday, at least three students and one school staff member had tested positive.

As a result, the city’s recreation center and the municipal library were also temporarily closed.

The mayor of Marsoui, Ghislain Deschênes, warns residents to be very careful. (Jean-François Deschênes / Radio-Canada)

“We learned that this damn virus is circulating, alive and well everywhere,” the mayor of Marsoui, Ghislain Deschênes, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.

“Now we must all follow the recommendations to the letter to protect each other, and especially ourselves. “

The regional health authority set up a mobile testing site in the village this week, and Bonnier-Viger says some 140 people have used it so far.

“We can expect more cases to appear in the data that will emerge today or tomorrow, but not to a point where we need to be too concerned,” Bonnier-Viger said.

Bonnier-Viger says all active cases in the region are currently variant cases, which he says means they originate from outside the region.

But he said much of the spread in the community comes from residents who fail to follow basic public health protocols such as washing their hands or limiting their number of close contacts.

“Even though we think there isn’t a lot of virus, once it’s there, once it’s there, it’s very, very contagious,” he warned.

Still, Bonnier-Viger believes that if residents remain cautious over the next few weeks, the spread will be limited and the Gaspé region may remain a yellow zone.

Vaccination campaign has been successful so far, according to public health

About half of the population of Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands has received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and about five percent have already been inoculated with a second dose.

Johanne Méthot, responsible for the vaccination campaign in the region, said she was satisfied with the number of people showing up so far and has high hopes for the weeks to come.

Smaller vaccination sites have been added to several communities in the region, including Grande-Vallée and Rocher Percé, which she says has helped reach more members of the public.

The CISSS also calls residents over 60 individually to make sure they can get help if they are having difficulty making an appointment.

A total of 52,410 doses of vaccine were administered in the region.


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