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More than 100 nuns and staff at Quebec City convent test positive for COVID-19

·3 min read

MONTREAL — More than 100 nuns and staff members at a Quebec City convent have tested positive for COVID-19, public health authorities said Monday, as 1,164 new infections were reported across the province.

Fifty-eight of approximately 300 nuns at Soeurs de la Charite de Quebec congregation tested positive for COVID-19, Annie Ouellet, spokeswoman for the regional health agency, said in an email. 

Another 51 staff members out of about 110 who work at the facility also tested positive, Ouellet said. The health agency became aware of the outbreak on Nov. 18 and deployed teams to help the congregation contain the spread, she added.

The teams, Ouellet said, "quickly put rigorous prevention and infection-control measures in place." Infected residents have been isolated, she said, adding that the teams are dedicated to specific parts of the building, reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

On Saturday, Quebec Archbishop, Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, extended his support to those affected by the outbreak. "We want to assure them of our prayers, our solidarity, and we ask the Lord to bless them so that they may go through this difficulty with hope and with courage," he said in a video posted to Facebook.

The outbreak came as health officials reported 1,164 new infections Monday, including 106 cases in the Quebec City area. The provincial capital is considered a "red zone" — the highest pandemic-alert classification — under which bars, gyms, restaurant dining areas and entertainment venues are closed.

Last week, Premier Francois Legault announced red-zone restrictions — which have been in place since Oct. 1 — would be extended for the second time, to at least Jan. 11.

The regions with the highest number of infections reported Monday were Montreal with 294; Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, north of Quebec City, with 161; Lanaudiere, north of Montreal, with 142; and Monteregie, south of Montreal, with 125.

Thirteen more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus were also reported provincewide, including three that had taken place in the past 24 hours.

In Montreal, authorities asked the public to avoid the emergency department at Lachine Hospital after 13 patients tested positive for COVID-19 on the fifth floor of the facility, including in the intensive care unit. Two workers at the hospital in the city's southwest borough also tested positive, the McGill University Health Centre said, adding that an investigation is underway to determine the source of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, police in the town of Rosemere, Que., north of Montreal, said Monday they will distribute fines in connection with a maskless, weekend dance party at a shopping centre. Local police and mall security intervened after about five minutes of dancing at Place Rosemere on Saturday afternoon.

The event, filmed and widely shared online, was planned and not spontaneous, Insp. Martin Charron said. Charron said an organizer was identified and told she would receive three tickets: one for holding an event against public health rules, one for not wearing a mask in public, and a third for not following physical distancing rules. 

He said it's the first time the Therese-De Blainville police had to intervene at an anti-mask event. Rosemere is also designated a red zone.

Authorities said Monday that 1,282 more people recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 115,367 recoveries. They said hospitalizations decreased by eight from a day earlier, to 634, and 98 patients were in intensive care, a drop of five. 

Quebec has reported 133,206 cases and 6,842 deaths since the pandemic began.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.

— With files from Sidhartha Banerjee

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, The Canadian Press