Flags will be flying at half-mast throughout the Valley and across the country today as Canadians mark the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. In Quebec, a special ceremony will take place in the forecourt of the parliament building between noon and 1 p.m. This will be followed by the observance of a minute of silence to pay tribute to the more than 10,500 Quebecers who have died as a result of the virus. The anniversary will also be marked across Canada as a national day of observance to commemorate “the people who lost their lives and the significant impacts we have all felt because of COVID-19.”
Regional situation improving
“At the moment, it is going well in the Montérégie,” says Dr. Julie Loslier, the director of the regional public health authority. “Over the past few weeks, our rates of contagion have been falling. The number of our cases is also falling and for the past four weeks our figures could qualify us as an orange zone,” she reported, as part of an address broadcast on the Direction de santé publique de la Montérégie’s Facebook page.
Despite such positive progress, the Montérégie remains in the red zone for several key reasons, namely: stability, proximity to Montreal, and the presence of presumed cases of variants. “Stability is important to be sure that the spread is truly limited in the area,” Loslier explains, adding that the variants are a concern. Finally, she admits there is uncertainty surrounding the impact March break may have on numbers going forward.
“As soon as the situation allows, I am obviously going to recommend relaxing certain measures,” says Loslier, who suggests the intention is to rapidly introduce flexibility to public health guidelines as soon as the most vulnerable individuals have been vaccinated and are protected against the virus.
There are presently 81 outbreaks in the region, the majority located in school and workplace environments. There are 8 active cases in the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent and 47 cases in the MRC des Jardins-de-Napierville, including 6 in Hemmingford.
Vaccination clinics fully booked
According to recent comments by Health Minister Christian Dubé, the hope is that all those aged 65 and older may be vaccinated by as early as mid-May. And, as of earlier this week, individuals over the age of 70 became eligible to book an appointment to receive a first dose against the virus through the www.clicsanté.ca website. To date, 74 786 people in the Montérégie have received their first jab.
Booking an appointment locally is becoming more challenging, however. All of the available time slots have been filled for the one-day vaccination clinic in Huntingdon, taking place this Saturday, March 13, in the cafeteria at Arthur-Pigeon High School. There are no other vaccination clinics scheduled for Huntingdon at this time. Appointments for the Ormstown vaccination clinic at the Recreation Centre are also fully booked for the month of March, however more times are expected to become available soon.
Sheila Vaincourt, of Huntingdon, says she will be relieved to get the vaccine, but is concerned about securing transport to Ormstown to receive her jab. “There are a lot of people who do not have cars,” she says, noting that she is aware of the free public transit service from Huntingdon to Ormstown as well as the possibilities for transport with different organizations and taxis. Transport just adds a layer of complexity to an already stressful situation, she explains, noting she has had difficulties in the past as well with securing vaccination appointments. “It all gets in your head,” she says. “There is just no sleep some nights.”