Daycare workers feel vulnerable after outbreak in Mascouche

Now that it’s clear that COVID-19 outbreaks can happen at daycares, too—Quebec just saw its first such outbreak in Mascouche—daycare workers in other places are feeling increasingly worried about the coming weeks.

“I think it's once somebody comes it with it... it’s just going to take one and then it's going to set the ball rolling,” said Rebecca Frenette, who works at the Funville C.P.E. daycare at the Douglas psychiatric hospital in Verdun.

“We’re trying really hard—for instance, when parents come into the centre you have to use a separate door and only the children come in,” she said. 

“But once a child comes in, and maybe brought it in from a parent without knowing… I think it's just going to take one and then it's going to snowball.” 

On Wednesday, Quebec’s first COVID-19 daycare outbreak was announced by public health officials in the Lanaudiere region just north of Montreal.

A daycare at Ecole La Mennais in Mascouche, which has been offering emergency child-care for essential workers, was closed on Monday, according to Lanaudiere's director of public health, Dr. Richard Lessard.

An investigation by public health officials found that 12 out of 27 children at the daycare had contracted COVID-19, as well as four employees. 

Children rarely show serious symptoms of COVID-19, but it appeared in Mascouche that a child may have brought the infection into the daycare. 

One child was the first to show symptoms and was given a test “around April 23,” Lessard said in a press conference, according to Le Devoir. The child tested positive on April 30, last Thursday. 

In Toronto, 20 people at a daycare, including seven children, tested positive for the virus this week as well.

The Mascouche daycare will now stay closed until May 18, just a day before daycares and schools are set to reopen in Lanaudiere, and a week before those in Montreal, according to the province’s newly pushed-back timeline.

That timeline makes people like Frenette nervous. Her daycare is also caring for the children of essential workers, and it’s only operating at 30 per cent capacity right now—but it’s still hard to keep the kids apart, she says. 

“You can sit them at different tables with different toys that we are constantly disinfecting. We try to divide the room into different sections,” she said. But “they want to play together. Toddlers are social creatures.”

And try asking toddlers to follow other health protocols, she said. “They don't understand covering your mouth. They’re quite little.” 

Attendance will only increase as the economy reopens.

The CIUSS de l’Ouest de l’Ile de Montreal says it has clear rules: children won’t be admitted into their daycare if their parents or other person in the household has symptoms or is in isolation because of the virus. 

In Lanaudiere, an investigation by public health officials is underway to try to trace the origins and spread of the virus around the daycare.

The region is seeing increasing cases of COVID-19. Two areas on the south side of the region, including Mascouche, were some of the first to be affected by the virus, but Lessard said that now he’s seeing more and more cases in the northern part of the district, including in Joliette.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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