Some Montreal doctors urging Quebec to re-think its back-to-school plan and include mask mandate

Some Montreal doctors are urging the province to re-consider its back-to-school plan, saying masks should be part school uniforms again this fall.

With about a month until classes begin again, some of these doctors say it shouldn't be back to normal.

"If you accept that Delta is more infectious, then the next logical step is to say if anything we will need to have enhanced precautions," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton. "That would require measures like masks, like distancing."

Quebec's plan was announced in June, and includes no restrictions aside from students being encouraged to continue washing their hands more often.

"We are pretty confident the plan will stand," said Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge on June 2. "If we thought the plan wouldn't stand we would have to change a lot of things. We wouldn't present that plan."

The minister's confidence comes with a huge caveat.

Roberge said the plan depends on having 75 per cent of Quebec's students fully vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, 73 per cent of 12-17-year-olds in the province have gotten their first dose, but only a quarter have had both.

There is currently no vaccine approved for those under 12.

Montreal public health also released data on Tuesday showing some 30,000 high schoolers have yet to get their first shot.

"We're 4 weeks from the beginning of school we have a window of opportunity to get people vaccinated, and to allow us to start the school year in a more normal fashion but it's not guaranteed that that will be the case," said David Kaiser, a physician with Montreal public health.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended Americans who are fully vaccinated continue wearing masks indoors because of the rise of variants and high infection rates in some states. That recommendation includes school children.

There are close to 250 confirmed Delta variant cases in Quebec, which is low compared to some provinces. However, it's important to note that turnaround time for genome sequencing can take anywhere between seven to 14 days for the results to be published on government sites and reports.

Low Delta numbers in Quebec in recent weeks could make a mask mandate a hard sell.

"The natural reaction is to say 'why are you doing this now? There is no problem,' but the whole goal is to avoid there being a problem," said Oughton.

The education ministry plans to update the back-to-school plan in early August.

  COVID-19 CASES IN QUEBEC
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