Nearly 50 Quebec schools have at least 1 case of COVID-19, but no outbreaks so far

Quebec schools have been open for more than a week, and 46 out of 3,100 in the province have at least one case of COVID-19, according to government figures released Friday.

Health Minister Christian Dubé says cases are in line with what was expected

Students are seen through individual plexiglass shields at the private Marie-Claire Academy in Montreal on Monday. Quebec schools reopened last week, and 46 out of 3,100 in the province have at least one case of COVID-19 so far. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Quebec schools have been open for more than a week, and 46 out of 3,100 in the province have at least one case of COVID-19, according to government figures released Friday.

"I think we can say that it went well for the first week, but we aren't going to lower our guard, that's for sure," Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said.

In most of the 46 cases, the staff or student was infected outside of school, he said. He would not specify how many cases there were in each school but said none had turned into outbreaks, with widespread transmission within a school.

"There are no outbreaks so far," Dubé said.

The minister said the government was releasing the list of schools with cases in order to be transparent and hoped it wouldn't lead to stigmatization. 

The list includes public and private schools that had cases between Aug. 26 and Sept. 3. 

Montreal is most affected

The list, which is available online, does reveal the dates that each positive case was confirmed. Initially, the government said there were 47 schools affected, but late Friday revised that to 46.

Montreal is the most-affected region, with 14 schools reporting at least one case. Montérégie has eight schools, Capitale-Nationale has seven, and Laval has six.

The Eastern Townships, Outaouais and Abitibi-Témiscamingue regions have three cases each. The Lanaudière region and the Laurentians have one each.

The government vowed to update the list regularly, publishing numbers Tuesday to Saturday.

WATCH | COVID-19 outbreaks in Quebec schools cause for concern:

COVID-19 outbreaks in Quebec schools cause for concern

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With students returning to school across most of Canada, there have already been problems with COVID-19 infecting both teachers and students. In Quebec, which has already reported dozens of cases, health experts call the back-to-school plan inadequate, and warn that the spread of COVID-19 could accelerate quickly. 1:59

In a statement Friday, the government says each time a case is reported in a school, all parents receive a warning from the school's administration, as do staff.

In cases where there are concerns of contact between students or staff, everyone in a given class might be told to go into self-isolation and monitor for symptoms in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

According to health authorities, figuring out who needs to be isolated depends on several factors that are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

Number of cases in line with expectations

Quebec was the first province to welcome students back amid the pandemic. All schools, universities, daycares and CEGEPs in Quebec closed in mid-March as the government tried to stop the spread of COVID-19.

While many schools around the province reopened later in the spring, schools in the greater Montreal area only reopened in the fall.

Dr. Richard Masse, a senior public health official, said the province knew what to expect based on their experience reopening elementary schools outside the greater Montreal area in the spring.

The gradual reopening of daycares and kindergartens over the summer did not result in a notable uptick in cases, Masse said. He said that success shows the situation is manageable.

The number of cases reported so far this fall aligns with the government's expectations, Masse said.

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