All schools shutting down in Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup because of spread of coronavirus variants

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All the elementary and high schools in the Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup service centre, in the Lower Saint-Lawrence, are closed until after Easter.  (Radio-Canada - image credit)
All the elementary and high schools in the Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup service centre, in the Lower Saint-Lawrence, are closed until after Easter. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

A service centre in the Lower Saint-Lawrence is closing all of its elementary and high schools as of today, in response to the growing spread of coronavirus variants in the region.

Starting Friday, 18 schools in the Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup service centre are closed, and students will switch to virtual learning.

The region reported 46 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the highest number of new daily cases since the beginning of the pandemic. It reported an additional 41 new cases Friday.

According to public health, more than half the active cases in the region are from variants.

There are cases of the virus in 16 out of the service centre's 18 schools and six of those schools are dealing with outbreaks.

Regional director of public health Dr. Sylvain Leduc called it an "unprecedented epidemiological situation," and said the majority of active cases are among students and staff in the Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup region.

"The problem we're confronting now is an acute and accelerating community transmission," Leduc said.

He said he's not calling for any new or stricter measures at this time, but is hoping to slow down the spread of the virus so the region is not forced to get bumped up a colour alert level.

Public health is cautioning people in the region to cut out all non-essential movement or activities, and to avoid gathering.

School service centre director Antoine Déry said schools have put effective measures in place. But they don't appear to be helping slow community spread in the region.

A spokesperson for the teachers' union told Radio-Canada it's a relief to have schools shut down, because she's been concerned for her members' safety since last week.

"I found it awful to make them go through what they were going through," Natasha Blanchet said. "Plus, for the students, for their parents, it was a terrible contagion environment, in a closed classroom."

Public health is increasing its testing capacity while the region tackles the outbreaks.

Two emergency child-care centres are opening to take in the school-aged children of essential workers.

A return to in-person classes is set for April 6.