SCIENCE – Since October 4, many primary schools have been able to bring down the mask in the departments where the coronavirus does not circulate much anymore. This was the case with Lozère, where the incidence rate was among the lowest in France at the end of September.
But since then things have changed a lot. According to the latest data published Tuesday, October 12 by Public Health France, the incidence (number of cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants) is 106. In one week, the number of cases has increased by 268%. An increase that must still be put into perspective given the size of the department.
A unique case
Faced with this resurgence, braking measures have been put in place by the prefecture. A meeting between ARS Occitanie, the prefecture and the Ministry of National Education also took place “to consider the introduction of additional ‘braking’ measures”, explained to the HuffPost Mathieu Pardell, director of the Lozère departmental delegation to ARS Occitanie.
Because for the moment, the case is unique. “We do not really know what measures should be put in place in the schools if the incidence goes back above 50 for 5 days ”, explains Mathieu Pardell. This is the case since the figures released Tuesday evening, visible in the graph below.
Clusters and a “significant” impact
The question of school arises in particular because it is, it seems, from here that the epidemic has restarted in Lozère. “We are aware of two clusters in primary schools in the north-west of the department, one of which, important, has 23 cases”, details the departmental head of the ARS.
However, even such a cluster, even under control, is very visible on the incidence rate of the least populated department in France. With 76,000 inhabitants, 77 new positive cases over a week equals an incidence of 102.
But these clusters in the school environment are not sufficient to explain this increase in incidence, which also exists among adults. If we look at the development by age group, we see an increase that spreads across the age groups.
There are two possible explanations, which are not mutually exclusive, analyzes Mathieu Pardell:
- Minors contaminated at school are “reservoirs” that will infect those around them
- A relaxation of barrier gestures allows the coronavirus to circulate more efficiently
On this last point, Mathieu Pardell recalls “that there has been an increase in the number of cultural and sporting events bringing together the public in recent weeks”. If we remove the known cases of the school cluster, the incidence rate remains high, around 70.
The return of the mask?
Another very specific element: “It should be noted that the departmental vaccination rate is 70.5%, 5 points lower than the national rate,” notes Mathieu Pardell.
To nip any return of the epidemic in the bud, the ARS and the prefecture have implemented various measures: screening in the schools concerned, but also extended to nearby municipalities. In addition, the mask is again mandatory in places where the sanitary pass is necessary.
Above all, we will have to decide what this situation implies for primary schools. The rule is that the mask (and other barrier measures) fall off when the incidence is below 50 for 5 days. But what happens when the epidemic resumes? For now, the Ministry of National Education has not stopped anything. A decision, which could then apply to other departments, is expected to be made by Thursday.
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