Businesses closed, events cancelled and postponed – Pontiac on high alert amid Coronavirus scare


Josey Filion, CISSSO director general, and Dr. Carol McConnery announce the Outaouais’ second case of Covid-19, March 20.

Allyson Beauregard

OUTAOUAIS – The Centre intégré de Santé et de Services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) has held multiple press conferences in Gatineau recently to give updates on the Coronavirus situation and reassure the population they are prepared to deal with it. As of press time, there were over 600 confirmed cases of the virus in Quebec (4 deaths) and over 1,400 nationwide. The Outaouais’ first case was confirmed March 18 and at press time, there were eight cases.
To prevent the spread of the virus, Québec Premier Francois Legault implemented various measures such as closing all schools and daycares until May 1 (daycare is available for essential service employees), closing all non-essential businesses and public spaces from March 24 to April 13 (grocery stores, pharmacies, health centers, etc. will remain open), and prohibiting non-essential visits to hospitals, CLSCs, seniors residences, etc.
As a result, most Pontiac events were cancelled or postponed. Many people cut their trips abroad short after both the provincial and federal governments urged travellers to return home as soon as possible. Others cancelled their travel plans before departing. Those returning from trips abroad are advised to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days after their return.
MRC Pontiac implements preventative measures
The MRC Pontiac is restricting public access to its office in Litchfield until further notice; the MRC and SAAQ offices are closed, MRC meetings will be closed to the public (see page 7), and staff are only available to consult the public via telephone (819-648-5689), although the director general and warden will be in their offices from Monday to Friday.
In addition, a 14-day isolation period is imposed on MRC employees returning from a foreign trip. Those needing to access SAAQ services immediately can call 1-800-361-7620.
Many municipalities have closed municipal offices, including the Municipality of Pontiac, and some businesses have decided to either close their doors or reduce operating hours until further notice.
“The situation will be re-evaluated on a daily basis as new information becomes available. Right now, it’s all about prevention and social distancing,” said MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller, stressing the population must remain calm but be cautious.
Toller has asked CISSSO to establish a local testing centre outside of the region’s hospital and CLSCs. “Gatineau is a far distance to go to a testing centre and if
people are going to the hospital or CLSCs with symptoms, it puts other patients and staff at risk. I’m not asking for anything extraordinary, just for existing tests to be done somewhere else like a trailer or small existing building,” she explained, noting CISSSO said they will get back to her.
“We’re working closely with CISSSO and have regular conference calls. The next two weeks are very important. We need to be alert and vigilant. In some ways we are very fortunate to live in an isolated place with a smaller population, but we cannot take that for granted. It comes down to each and every person to do their best [to stop the spread],” concluded Toller.
Symptoms and what to do
“The infection is most often spread through close contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze, or through hand contact with infected surfaces
and then the mouth, nose or eyes. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may be mild, similar to a cold, or more severe, such as those associated with pneumonia and lung or kidney failure,” said CISSSO. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk.
In general, coronavirus doesn’t survive long on objects – about
3 hours on inert objects with dry surfaces or 6 days on inert objects with wet surfaces. The best way to reduce the risk of spread is through basic hygiene measures like:
• Regular hand washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds;
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
• Observe proper hygiene when coughing or sneezing such as coughing into your elbow;
• Avoid putting your hands in your mouth, eyes and nose.
Coronavirus infections are diagnosed based on symptoms and laboratory tests. As of now, there is no specific treatment for the virus and most people will recover on their own.
“If you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have travelled, we ask you
to not come to our facilities,” said CISSSO. People who display symptoms must call
Tests are administered by the Québec Public Health Laboratory and results come back within 24 to 48 hours. CISSSO calls patients directly after obtaining their results. In the case of someone testing positive, they will be called instantly because an immediate research of contacts will be initiated to hopefully prevent further transmission.
To learn more about coronavirus, including the number of current cases, visit:

Financial aid
The government of Québec, in partnership with Red Cross, implemented a temporary financial assistance program for workers who, because they are
in isolation to counter the spread of COVID-19, cannot earn
all of their work income and are not eligible for another financial assistance program.
Visit for more information.
The federal government will introduce emergency legislation
to provide support to Canadians affected by the pandemic such as an Emergency Care Allowance for those ineligible for EI like the self-employed, wage subsidies for small businesses, and boosting
the Canadian Child Tax Benefit, among other initiatives.