The Gleaner
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COVID cases again on the rise; Haut-Saint-Laurent seniors vaccinated at lower rate

Cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise in the Montérégie for the past month. The number of hospitalizations increased sharply during the second week of April, as approximately 95 outbreaks continued to spread the virus primarily through work and school environments, as well as within the health and long-term care sector.

The number of cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN) has doubled from a steady plateau of around 10 cases to just under 25 in recent days, with cases rising in the Suroît and Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHNs to just over 50 and 150 cases respectively.

The number of probable variant cases in the Montérégie has increased to approximately 1,485 with 103 confirmed cases, including 98 of the UK variant, three of the South African variant, and now two of the variant first identified in Brazil.

The number of daily diagnosed positive cases in Quebec has hovered for the past week at around 1,500, while across the border in Ontario, the numbers have surged to well over 4,500 per day. Because of this, the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec agreed to close their border as of this past Monday, with checkpoints being established to limit any non-essential movement between the provinces. Exceptions will be made for those who are travelling for work, seeking medical care, transporting goods, or exercising indigenous treaty rights. Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault insisted, during the announcement of this measure last Friday, that it was necessary to limit the propagation of the variants. “It’s a matter of safety,” she said.

Vaccination campaign continues

Over 25 per cent of the Montérégie’s population has now received a first dose of vaccine, including more than 110,000 people vaccinated as part of the campaign run by the Montérégie-West Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO). This includes people over the age of 60 who were vaccinated by appointment, as well as those aged 55 and older who opted to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at walk-in clinics.

Information issued by the CISSSMO suggests that in at least one age cohort, the Haut-Saint-Laurent LHN is lagging behind neighbouring networks. At least 75 per cent of the Haut-Saint-Laurent’s over-80 population has received a first jab; this is positive news, but quickly pales in comparison to the 92 per cent vaccination rate achieved in the Suroît LHN and 87 per cent in Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

According to Lynn McWhinnie of the Communic-Action Project, the situation facing Valley seniors who want to be vaccinated is complicated by the lack of reliable internet service. “I find it pretty sad. The healthcare system wants us to be vaccinated but they are not making it accessible,” she says, while noting that appointments are being booked solely online. “It’s hard if you have no internet,” she points out. “We see it with the senior population, but I know there are young families as well with no internet access.”

As part of her outreach role with the Communic-Action Project, McWhinnie is available to help seniors with no internet service to make an appointment. She says she has already booked around 50 appointments and is happy to continue. She also suggests Valley residents reach out to any elderly family members or neighbours who may not have internet access and offer to help. The Communic-Action Project can be reached at 450 264-5197.

Distance may also play a role in the area’s lower vaccination rate, as the closest clinics are in Ormstown and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Locally, individuals may contact the Service d’accompagnement bénévole et Communautaire (S.A.B.E.C.), which has partnered with the CISSSMO to provide free transportation to vaccination appointments. Those in need of transportation may contact S.A.B.E.C. for more information by telephone at: 450 264-1131, or by email at: sabec2641131@hotmail.com.

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