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Valley still red despite few cases; relief as public vaccination campaign begins

The number of new COVID-19 diagnoses, hospitalizations, and outbreaks in the Montérégie has been on a steady decline for well over a month. The local situation continues to improve with the number of active cases hovering around 10 for the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, with its 13 municipalities as well as Hemmingford each listed as having less than five cases.

Despite this, the Quebec government announced last week the Montérégie will remain at high alert or in the red zone for the time being, citing the close proximity to Montreal, reliance on overly burdened regional hospitals, and the emergence of new variants as causes for concern. It also remains to be seen how March break will impact daily numbers of infections in the coming weeks.

As well, Premier François Legault admitted during a press conference last week that officials are anticipating spikes in cases in Montreal and Laval, as the U.K. variant is expected to become the dominant strain of circulating virus by the end of the month.

As we officially mark the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic (March 11) and look back on the worldwide lockdown that ensued, public health officials are constantly screening for new, more contagious variants, and are racing to vaccinate enough people to quell further spread.

The drive to vaccinate as many people as possible before the variants take hold received several doses of good news recently, as Health Canada approved both the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Also, the second doses of vaccines requiring two injections will now be delayed for up to four months, allowing for more individuals in vulnerable age groups to receive their first injection.
The vaccination campaign has seen well over 500,000 or 6 per cent of Quebecers receive their first injection, including more than 66,000 people in the Montérégie.

In the Valley, appointments can be made right now for those aged 75 years and over to get their first shot at a clinic being established in the Recreation Centre in Ormstown. These vaccinations will begin March 19. Caregivers who are 70 or older and accompanying those with appointments are also eligible to be vaccinated.

For many in the Valley, it comes as a huge relief that they are finally able to book appointments for their elderly parents. Loraine Lamb Lalonde of Ormstown says the fear of potentially transmitting the virus to her parents, who live on their own in separate houses, has been a constant worry.

“I was surprised at how elated I felt once the appointment was booked,” she admits, noting that it was on her father’s 86th birthday that she made his appointment. A few days later she was able to secure a date for her mother as well.

Lamb Lalonde says there was never any question whether her parents would get the vaccine. “My parents’ generation lived through polio outbreaks, scarlet fever, and all those other dreaded diseases that vaccines have all but eliminated. So, COVID vaccine? Yes, please!”

She reports that the online booking procedure on the website was easy to follow, and that the only information required to book for a loved one is their birth date. Those less familiar with the internet can make an appointment by calling 1-877-644-4545.

Lamb Lalonde is especially looking forward to a time when she can live without the constant worry of unknowingly carrying the virus. “The idea that my parents will get their first dose almost exactly a year to the day from when we first went into lockdown is almost impossible to believe!”



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