10 public health workers in the Eastern Townships test positive for COVID-19

Ten public health employees in the Eastern Townships are among the 18 new patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the region.

The CIUSSS de l'Estrie-CHUS issued a statement Thursday, saying it is looking to see who may have come into contact with the infected employees, but it appears no clients are at risk.

"Our infected staff are back home," the statement says. "This contamination, according to our investigation, is not related to travel, but originates from the community."

The health agency's director, Dr. Alain Poirier, was in regular contact with several of the infected employees but is not showing symptoms, said spokesperson Annie-Andrée Émond.

She said he is still coming into work, but wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance from colleagues and handling interviews by telephone only.

The health agency says, despite the recent positive cases, epidemiological investigations and other activities are continuing and that this situation will not lead to a break in service.

Radio-Canada reported earlier in the week that three of the CIUSSS de l'Estrie-CHUS employees who had tested positive were doctors.

The agency has 20,000 employees and doctors, Émond said.

"It was foreseeable that members of the organization would be infected and this situation worries us," she said. 

"We strive to provide safe environments for both our employees and the users of our services."

However, the local union says otherwise.

In a statement sent out Wednesday, Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services said not enough is being done to protect employees.

"Do we wait for a death in the network to ensure the safety of professional and technical health and social services personnel?" Andrée Poirier, the union's president, said.

The most recent assessment of COVID-19 reports 187 people infected and a second death in the Eastern Townships.

Quebec now has 1,629 confirmed cases and eight deaths.