COVID-19 update – Red zone measures extended

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Allyson Beauregard

QUÉBEC – On October 27, Québec Premier Francois Legault extended the measures in the province’s red zone until November 23, stating 28 days was not enough to stop the spread of the virus. The Outaouais entered Level 3 (orange) on September 22 and on October 10, the city of Gatineau and the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais, which includes the Municipality of Pontiac (Quyon, Luskville), were placed in the maximum (red) alert level. The red zone restrictions were set to expire October 28.
However, the government will re-evaluate the situation in two weeks, and if there has been a consistent drop in new cases, some measures could be relaxed. To stop the spread in schools, Grade nine students will join Grade 10 and 11 students attending school in person one day out of two, with distance learning filling in the gaps. Masks must be worn in school at all times.
Non-essential travel to other regions and outside of the province is discouraged. Other measures include: closing of bars, theatres, fitness centres, spas and restaurants exceptfor delivery, take-out or drive-through orders; no private gatherings; visits prohibited at home (except for people living alone who can receive only one visitor, caregivers, or people offering services/ support); no visits to seniors residences, with the exception of family caregivers and visits for humanitarian purposes; no activities in public places (except for protests where masks are worn, and places of worship and funerals capped at 25 people); organized recreational and sports activities cancelled.
As of October 29, those in red zones who go to places where activities are suspended – gyms, restaurant dining rooms, bars, theatres, etc. – can be fined between $1,000 to $6,000 depending on whether it’s a repeat offense; businesses also face hefty fines.
The MRC Pontiac remains in Level 3 – Alert (orange), consequently private indoor or outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of six people; activities organized in a public setting are limited to a maximum of 25 people (rented halls, weddings, festival events, BBQs, etc.); and public venue halls are capped at 250 people who must remain relatively immobile (theatres, concerts halls, places of worship, public venues, etc.). Businesses and venues must stop selling alcohol after 11 pm.
Bars, casinos and restaurants must close by midnight, with a maximum of six people per table. One person per household is recommended in stores and inter-regional travel isn’t recommended. Long-term care home (CHSLD) visits are limited to informal caregivers and for humanitarian reasons.
Quicker test results
The new Alinity M tesing device at the Gatineau hospital is now in full operation after completing a 14-day trial period. The delay for getting COVID tests results was about seven days at the end of September; it was reduced to between three and five days by mid-October by increasing the number of tests analyzed at the National Public Health Laboratory.
The new machine, which can also analyze results other than COVID tests, can examine up to 1,100 tests daily.
With the machine in full operation, according to Marie-Pier Després, Centre intégré de Santé et de Services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) communications agent, the present wait time for getting results is around two to three days, with most results provided within 48 hours.
Mental health funding
On October 28, Lionel Carmant, Québec’s junior health minister, announced an investment of $25 million to improve mental health services for Québec youth and their families.
The results of a Léger marketing study, funded by Québec public health, found the pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of young Québecers, especially those in the Montreal region: 46% of Montreal residents between 18 and 24 years old (24 % for those 25 and older) report symptoms of generalized anxiety or major depression compared to 31% in other regions of Québec.
The numbers
The Centre de services scolaire des Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais now has 7 cases within their schools, while the Western Quebec School Board has 19. None of the cases in the schools are in the MRC Pontiac or Municipality of Pontiac.
As of press time, there were over 108,000 cases of the virus in Québec (6,283 deaths). The Outaouais now has 2,514 cases (2,181 recovered) and 45 deaths. The Municipality of Pontiac has 22 cases while the MRC Pontiac has 6.