Gatineau March 18, 2020
This past week, Quebec has applied a significant number of measures to combat COVID-19, which is now considered a pandemic.
COVID-19, or coronaviruses, are described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a family of viruses that are zoonotic, meaning they can jump from animals to humans.
A “novel coronavirus” is a strain of the virus that has not been discovered before. COVID 19 is considered one.
For infected individuals, the viruses could cause mild symptoms similar to the common cold, to more severe ones, similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Symptoms may include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. More severe cases can be fatal, especially for seniors and those with compromised immune systems.
For COVID-19 questions and assessment, citizens should call 1-877-644-4545 instead of the public health line, 811, which will remain open for all other health questions. Up-to-date information can be found at quebec.ca/coronavirus
Those exhibiting symptoms of the virus will be directed to a specialized testing clinic. One serving the Outaouais opened on 135 boulevard St-Raymond in Gatineau on Saturday. They will only accept patients that have been referred for an appointment through the hotline mentioned above.
CISSSO held the first of several press conferences about COVID-19 at the Direction Régionale de la santé publique headquarters in Gatineau last Wednesday.
Infectious disease consultant of the Outaouais Public Health (OPH) department Dr. Carol McConnery and director of technical services and logistics for the Centre intégré de santé et de service sociaux (CISSSO) Stephane Pleau were there to present the region’s COVID-19 situation.
One of the most discussed issues was the measures which the medical institutions across the province are taking to minimize the spread of the virus.
Pleau said hospitals have surveillance put in place to monitor the quantity of equipment at medical institutions, specifically for masks. Monitoring is also done to check if the equipment is used properly.
An operational committee has been put in place, as well. It has medical specialists that prepare their employees for emergency services regarding the virus.
At that time, Pleau said it was not necessary to have that clinic. Cease of travel for leisure was not insisted by him, either. Those who may be feeling the mentioned symptoms were asked to simply be wary when traveling.
McConnery advised to limit visits to seniors - the most vulnerable group to the virus - and to wash hands frequently, as the virus lasts three hours on dry surfaces and inanimate objects, and six hours on humid surfaces.
“All recommendations to limit the spread, that are reasonable and that are feasible, won’t do any harm,” McConnery said.
Since last week, however, COVID-19 has made significant strides into the region and across Canada, changing the protocol significantly.
Friday, the federal government advised against traveling outside the borders as it announced it is limiting flights coming into Canada.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed Canada’s borders to anyone who is not a U.S. or Canadian citizen.
Marine travel was also issued restrictions. Cruise ships and boats boarding over 500 people will not be allowed to dock at Canadian ports until July.
As of Monday, March 16, province-wide, 50 cases have been confirmed. Last Wednesday, there were only seven cases in Quebec.
Another press conference regarding the outbreak was held at the Centre de Citoyen in Gatineau last Friday.
The city’s mayor, Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, declared the city will be shutting down public buildings, such as pools and community centres, until further notice - a measure implemented nation-wide. Gatineau is also encouraging telecommuting for work where possible, such as holding teleconferences for business purposes.
Administration council president of the Société de transport de l’Outaouais, Myriam Nadeau, was also present. She said Gatineau has began sanitizing buses daily now. Citizens who have symptoms are asked to avoid public transport unless it is necessary and if it is, to exercise the prevention of germs, such as to put on a mask.
Nadeau said all workers that are coming back to Canada are asked to put themselves into self-isolation for 14 days - a proposal made, likewise, at the federal level.
McConnery has appeared at Friday’s conference, as well. When previously asked whether hospitals in smaller communities will be as prepared as those in large urban areas, she said yes.
There have been no confirmed cases in the Outaouais region as of Monday, March 16.
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