“COVID is going down, so things are going well,” says Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the COVID-19 coordinator for the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network, when asked about the current situation in the area.
The Direction de Santé Publique de la Montérégie concurs, as the number of cases across all age groups has been on the decline over the past six weeks, and all the MRCs across the region have been reporting lower or stable infection rates. The number of hospitalizations has also steadily decreased over the past five weeks. As of last week, there were 159 active outbreaks in the Montérégie, with the largest percentage of those being in schools, health-care and long-term care institutions, and workplaces. “We are well into the downslope of the curve,” Bélanger confirms. “But it is not over. There are still people hospitalized and needing care.”
Locally, the volatile outbreak at the Centre d’Hébergement d’Ormstown long-term care home, which saw more than 100 infections between the staff and residents, and 14 deaths, has officially been declared over. Bélanger says that successive outbreaks since early December at the Barrie Memorial Hospital, the Ormstown Medical Centre, and the CHO fuelled local case numbers.
The second floor at the CHO is now no longer operating as a hot zone, and Bélanger says there is a sense of “guarded elation combined with shellshock” among the staff. “As a team, they are coming together,” she explains, noting that services have been made available to employees, who are working to find an appropriate way to mark the end of the outbreak and to remember the people they lost.
Vaccines having an impact
Dr. Bélanger believes that we are starting to see the effect of the vaccine. In the case of the CHO, where residents had received a first does, the virus simply took over before the vaccine was able to take hold. The next stage in the province’s vaccination plan will extend to those living in private long-term care residences and then eventually to seniors outside such residences. Bélanger admits she is more than happy to be hearing news reports that vaccine deliveries will soon be ramping up across the country. “That’s what we need to break free of the pandemic cycle,” she says. “We are almost there.”
At the same time, Bélanger cautions, “there are variants out there that might fuel a third wave. Don’t feel safe. We are actually still in it.” She says she has not received any information confirming the presence of the different variants of the virus in the area, but that they are being screened for in the labs. Any positive tests are sequenced to determine whether the infection is one of several new variants considered to be more contagious and starting to circulate.
For this reason, Bélanger is joining in the chorus of medical professionals asking that families resist the urge to travel or gather over March break. “Let’s not have a recurrence of the post-Christmas horror,” she says. “Stay home with your family. We need to wait a few more weeks. With the spring will come hope and vaccines.”
Vaccination clinic in Valleyfield
The Montérégie West Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO) will be opening a site dedicated to vaccination in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield on Feb. 25. The site will be used to vaccinate targeted health-care workers, and eventually the population, according to the government’s order of priority. The clinic will have the capacity to vaccinate up to 1,400 people per day. The CISSSMO is also looking to set up one vaccination site per local health network and is currently in discussions with organizations and municipalities to explore potential sites.