Local health professionals in the Valley have started to breathe a little easier after several tense months of waiting to see if the first wave of COVID-19 infections would eventually wash over the area. The number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent has continued to rise, but not at an alarming rate. To date, there have been 97 confirmed cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent Local Health Network (LHN), with an average of just over 10 new cases being diagnosed per week.
“We are seeing more small, isolated outbreaks than if it was in the community,” says Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the COVID-19 coordinator for the Haut-Saint-Laurent LHN. “But there are probably still some active cases in the area,” she adds, suggesting that despite the relatively small increase in infections, it is still imperative that people remember to keep their distance, wash their hands, and wear a mask in public. “We are staying prepared,” she says of the local hospital, clinics, CHSLDs and CLSCs, “but I think we are living with it now. We are just finding new ways to provide services with COVID as the context,” she notes.
Bélanger suggests that what is happening within the local healthcare institutions is in many ways mirroring what people are living with in general, in the sense that almost everything is now done with precaution against the spread of the virus. “We know what to do, and everyone knows that it is real now. It has sunk in,” she says of the public health measures now accepted as the norm. And, after more than a month of gradual deconfinement without seeing any major spikes in infections, the virus is starting to fade somewhat into the background while thoughts turn to summer.
Globally, the coronavirus is still raging, and especially across the border in the United States. “It is sort of a never-ending wave,” says Dr. Bélanger. “And you know it is going to come back to you once it hits a wall,” she adds, suggesting it is now widely accepted that a second wave will start to surge in Quebec come the fall. “It doesn’t look like it is going to disappear like SARS,” suggests Bélanger, noting the long incubation period and possibility of asymptomatic carriers are two features that give this virus particular staying power.
In the meantime, the local doctors will continue to remain on alert while working to increase the number of patients who can be seen in person at local medical clinics and centres. “We are keeping on doing telework as long as the government allows it,” she notes, while admitting they have already doubled the number of patients who can be seen per day at the Medical Centre in Ormstown.
The wearing of masks in medical centres and clinics is obligatory, however there are different policies in place at the Barrie Memorial Hospital that do not necessarily require non-symptomatic individuals receiving treatment to wear face coverings. Masks are mandatory for all hospital personnel at this time. The local medical community continues to recommend wearing a face covering or mask when in public in order to enjoy a safe summer.