Quebec should impose stricter measures in schools to prevent COVID spread: public health consultant

SCHOOL MASKS

A Montreal public health consultant with a master's in epidemiology said that measures to address proper ventilation in schools are a red herring - he argues the Quebec government should be acting on scientific evidence from months ago warning about COVID transmission through aerosols and via young children. 

Michael Levy tells CJAD 800 he's concerned that COVID cases linked to Quebec schools make up around 30% of all active cases in the province.

"The data which is published on the government website shows a disproportionate number of cases and outbreaks in schools and is most probably an underestimation of the true situation because of the high number of asymptomatic cases which are undetected and untested," said Levy.

"Something big is happening in schools."

In a news conference yesterday, Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda still stood by claims that schools are not the main driver of COVID transmission in the community.

"They are part of but not the main (driver)," Arruda told reporters.

But Levy asks, Where's the data to back that up? 

"The big danger (is) that the kids, especially younger kids, younger than 10, are asymptomatic mostly -  for the most part, but some can get very sick - (and) they can transmit the disease,"' said Levy, citing studies including one last month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said at yesterday's news conference the WHO has only recently advised that aerosols are a big factor in transmission.

"We ask Santé Publique to come up with an update of that opinion," said Dubé.

Levy is skeptical.

"If they had been proactive and listened to the scientists as Australia did, they wouldn't have had to wait for the World Health Organization," said Levy, referring to independent scientists, medical and public health experts outside of the government.

Levy said it's all fine to have air purifiers and open windows in schools but they could give a false sense of security and don't replace all basic measures that should be in place.

"They will work somewhat but the major problems are still there," said Levy.

"Everyone in schools should be wearing masks."

Levy said that includes students in Grade four and down. He added there should also be increased social distancing and more distance learning.

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