QUÉBEC – The provincial government continues to respond to COVID-19 as the province enters the second wave of the pandemic.
On September 22, the Outaouais entered ‘Level 3 – alert’ (orange) of the regional alert and intervention system the government introduced on September 8; when unveiled, the Outaouais was in the ‘Level 2 – early warning’ (yellow) stage.
Level 3 introduces new measures that target specific sectors of activity and settings where the risk of transmission is deemed higher. Police interventions to ensure compliance with health directives (mask wearing, gathering maximums, etc.) are increased. Private indoor or outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of six people; activities organized in a public setting are limited to a max of 25 people (rented halls, church, weddings, festival events, BBQs, etc.); and public venue halls are capped at 250 people who must remain relatively immobile (theatres, concerts halls, public venues, etc.).
Businesses and venues must stop selling alcohol after 11 pm. Bars and
casinos must close by midnight, with a maximum of six people per table (same for restaurants) and a mandatory customer contact list.
One person per household is recommended in stores and inter-regional travel isn’t recommended. CHSLD visits are limited to those for humanitarian reasons and informal caregivers who provide significant assistance.
On September 28, four regions (Montreal metropolitan, Chaudiere-Appalaches, Capitale-Nationale and MRC de la Riviere-du-Nord) were placed in ‘Level 4 – maximum alert’ (red) leading to a temporary shutdown from October 1 to 28;
others have since been added. Residents in Level 4 regions are banned from having visitors at home (except for a caregiver, tradesperson, babysitter, or one visitor for those who live alone); bars, casinos and theatres are closed; restaurants are limited to takeout or delivery; and most visits in senior’s residences are prohibited. However, schools and other businesses remain open. Fines ($1,000) can be issued for violating the rules and police are able to enter homes quickly through a new virtual warrant system.
The federal and provincial governments are providing $36,431,229 in financial assistance to the 68 municipalities in the Outaouais region. The Pontiac riding will receive $1,232,408. Municipal governments will be able to directly cover their expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic, such as cost increases related to public security, building adaptations, the operation of municipal day camps and democratic processes (municipal councils, by-elections and general elections). This support is also intended to compensate municipalities for lost revenues such
as permit revenues, property transfer taxes, fines and penalties, and parking fees.
As a result of the new measures, the Shawville street market planned for October 3 and the SOUK ART event in Portage-du-Fort on September 26
were both cancelled. “New restrictions state that activities organized in a public setting are capped at 25 people. There were 20 vendors attending, so unfortunately it won’t work out this year. Maybe in the spring we will be able to hold a market,” said Helena Hadley, municipal administrative assistant.
The Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais
(CISSSO) has confirmed that some of its activities will be reduced during the second wave. “As part of wave two, we plan to reduce activities to free up manpower to support other critical areas such as intensive care, the dedicated COVID unit and screening, for example. The activities that could be reduced are simple ambulatory activities and elective surgeries,” said Marie-Pier Després, CISSSO communications agent.
CISSSO’s short term priorities include enhancing infection prevention and control teams and appointing site managers in CHSLDs to support field staff and ensure all measures are respected.
“It’s difficult to determine a precise time [for when the service reductions will take place]. We will adjust according to hospitalizations and the evolution of the pandemic,” added Després.
CISSSO strongly recommends that people with symptoms of COVID-19 or those who have been in contact with symptomatic people go for testing. To make an appointment in a CISSSO’s testing clinic, call 1-877-644-4545. The hours of the COVID call center are now Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m; and Saturday, Sunday and holidays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Testing without an appointment is also available in various locations including the Centre multiservices de Mansfield-et-Pontefract (CLSC), from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Testing is also available to people without symptoms; however, the Ministry of Health announced on September 28 that they are setting priorities, meaning asymptomatic people could be refused testing unless it’s recommended by a doctor or public health.
During the National Assembly on September 29, Marie Montpetit, official opposition health spokesperson, denounced the delay Outaouais residents are experiencing in obtaining test results, which she said is between 10 to 15 days. She said the government has been promising to make results available within 24 to 48 hours for over two months. Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, said that despite the room for improvement in result delays, the government has drastically increased the number of tests conducted per day. CISSSO says the average delay
for a test result is about 7 days.
“New laboratory equipment will be in operation shortly to reduce the wait time. Staff has been trained and the equipment calibrated. We are waiting for Health Canada’s approval to start using the device,” said a CISSSO public notice.
On September 28, the Western Quebec School Board issued a notice
stating it is monitoring the situation closely in schools and is prepared to switch to online learning if need be. As of that date, ten cases were confirmed within the board, none of which are in the MRC Pontiac or Municipality of Pontiac.
“Public Health investigates each positive case and determines the actions to be taken. Neither the school, nor Public Health are permitted to divulge the name(s) of any infected person due to confidentially. The school principal is responsible for making the community aware of a case in the school and it’s Public Health’s responsibility to contact each person who has been in close contact with a person who has become infected,” says the notice.
There have been no cases reported within the Centre de services scolaire des Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais’ schools, and the board says it is also prepared to offer distance learning. “We have [also] put in place alternative measures for students who do not benefit from technological tools or have access to quality internet,” said Monia Lirette, communications manager.
As of press time, there were over 79,600 cases of the virus in Québec (5,884 deaths). The Outaouais now has 1,485 cases (1,242 recovered) and 34 deaths. The Municipality of Pontiac has 7 cases while the MRC Pontiac has <5.