As of February 9, 2021, faced with scientific studies from around the world, the Quebec government no longer has a choice but to admit that the COVID-19 virus is also transmitted by aerosol. This spectacular turnaround did not come about by chance. On February 10, a joint motion by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) begins in the Quebec Superior Court, demanding that the Commission sur les normes, l’équité, la santé et la sécurité du travail (CNESST) issue an order to force the use of N-95 masks on a large scale in the Quebec health and social services network.
Feeling the heat, the Quebec government is trying to avoid a decision from the Quebec Superior Court, so it announces a change of course. A change that should have happened several months ago. As early as June 2020, The Lancet magazine published an article on aerosol contamination. The Lancet was not alone, see our August 21, 2020 article Measures to be taken in anticipation of the second wave of COVID .
Until today, the provincial government has systematically refused to adopt a true PREVENTION approach to occupational health and safety. This refusal is partly responsible for the fact that at the end of August 2020, on the eve of the second wave, there were approximately 280 cases of contaminated persons among MUHC staff and patients. As of February 9, 2021, this figure rises to 886, a significant number of whom were infected at work. We could have done much better if the provincial government and, more importantly, Public Health Institute, had listened to the revelations made by the scientific community.
One thing is certain, the position taken on February 8, 2021, by the Robert Sauvé Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (IRSST) buried the guidelines and the “Risk Management” form published on January 25, 2021, by the INSPQ (see our February 3 article on this INSPQ form). That the INSPQ form does not survive the reality test for two weeks is in itself a powerful illustration of the willful blindness of the Legault government and the Director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda.
At the time of writing this article, we still do not know if the government intends to take the position we are claiming: an N-95 mask for anyone working in a red or yellow zone of a healthcare establishment. Rest assured that we remain committed to protecting your health and safety.
More than ever, the Legault government must give itself the means to produce within our public institutions what we so desperately need: N-95 masks and reagent products. We must increase the analytical capacity of our public laboratories and, above all, give ourselves the capacity to produce the vaccines we so desperately need ourselves.
We must remember that we had a public institute, the Institut Armand Frappier, which produced vaccines and our good governments succumbed to neo-liberal rhetoric and this world-renowned institute was privatized. As a result, we are dependent on private companies for our vaccine supply.
Collectively, we can no longer continue in this direction. We need a vast project, a kind of Hydro-Quebec of health. Is the political will of the government there? Let us doubt it very much.