COVID-19: in Baie-des-Chaleurs, villages between two waters

A bridge. This is what separates the MRC d’Avignon, in the red zone, from that of Bonaventure, in the orange zone. A bridge that everyone crosses daily to move from one area to another, whether it is to go to work, to go shopping or to get prohibited services in the red zone. A situation that heightens anxiety among the immediate neighbors, where the number of cases is increasing day by day.

Marise Lévesque, 61, takes her bags out of the car and prepares to enter the Maxi in New Richmond. The lady from Carleton-sur-Mer lives in the red zone, but she had errands to do. In the orange zone. “We are careful,” said the one who caught COVID with her husband on September 13 and who has since completed her quarantine.

She is not the only one to cross the bridge that overhangs the Cascapedia River. According to Éric Dubé, mayor of New Richmond and prefect of Bonaventure, people from Carleton crossed the bridge last Saturday to go play hockey at the Bonaventure arena. “You want to tell them: bravo [les] champions! What did you not understand? “

There is also all the comings and goings of people working at Maria’s hospital, the adjacent CHSLD or the Lady Maria private residence, where there have been major outbreaks in recent weeks. “There is a very high labor mobility in the territory,” explains the prefect. Between 60 and 70% of the hospital’s employees live on the Bonaventure side. Several of her own employees have spouses who work at the red zone hospital. “They are at risk too, we would expect to lose other employees because they will get COVID. “

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In the council chamber, the man instantly receives the latest local report. He nervously taps on his tablet. Two new cases in the MRC de Bonaventure, for a total of 23 active cases.

The prefect is worried. “Three weeks ago, we had zero cases and now it’s 23rd. And it’s exponential. It is all the more difficult to eradicate transmission, because it is done on a community basis – there are no cases in retirement homes so far – and no one seems to know how. he caught the virus.

“We cannot pretend that the virus will not cross the river,” said the mayor. This is why, Monday evening, we decided to close our municipal infrastructure following recommendations from Public Health “. A bit like the mayors of Carleton-sur-Mer, Nouvelle and Maria recently did. Before being categorized as a red zone, the City of New Richmond therefore decided on its own to impose more stringent precautionary measures than what is required by Quebec. “People are disappointed, but they expected it and they understand,” said the mayor.

“It puts pressure on other municipalities going east,” he says. We didn’t do it out of heart, but we have no choice. We, we had the ball and naturally, people will go look [des services] in other infrastructures. If you cannot eat at a restaurant in your village because the restaurants are closed, chances are you are trying to eat in a nearby village. But we wanted to send a message to the people to avoid gatherings and stay at home. “


Already, in the city of New Richmond, we are feeling the effects of these new measures and speculation is rife. “Every day, we hear things,” says Nancy Arbor, owner of two IGAs in New Richmond and Paspébiac. People come to the store and talk about it: red zone. Red zone. It’s always worrying. “

There is also the stress related to the proximity of cities that are already in the red zone, she notes. “We see that people are stressed, they are afraid that it will come to us too because we are so close. And we see that they tend to buy extra to make sure they don’t run out of anything should there be a new lockdown. “

The businesswoman would rather return to generalized confinement than wander through this in-between. “In the spring, we were confined, so we had more control. Now the standards are not the same, there is no lockdown, so people are still going to move and walk around. I find it more worrying. “

Public Health is also worried about the spread in towns near the red zones. So why not put the whole region in the red zone? “If we confined everyone, we could stop the spread, we did it in the spring and we succeeded, at the cost of a great deal of suffering,” replied Dr. Bonnier Viger, regional director of public health Gaspésie – Îles-de-la. -Madeleine. We want to try to slow down and reduce the spread, but without going to too extreme measures. If we’re able, we’ll avoid the maximum alert. “

In the spring, we were confined, so we had more control. Now the standards are not the same, there is no lockdown, so people are still going to move and walk around. I find it more worrying.

Hunting stories

In his white Colorado pickup, Camil Bujold doesn’t seem too worried. Cigarette in hand, the septuagenarian walks to the end of the platform and turns around. It’s his little daily outing. His “spot” to meet friends and chat a bit to break the loneliness. “We do our social work, but respecting the rules! “, He says at the outset.

But there is no one here today. That the wind, the rough sea, the clouds on the mountains and the noise of the last sailboats docked which knock against the wooden docks. “I would rather not be in the red zone, but for sure close to the same [des villes en zone rouge], there are precautions to be taken, ”he said, shrugging his shoulders.

What really worries him is the arrival of the many hunters in the area. “They are all gang in a chalet, and when there is one who kills, we party around the hanged beast, and stories are told of how he killed it. The guys don’t keep their distance, me first, especially when we’ve had a little drink. “

Reluctantly, Camil Bujold turns back, preparing to return home. Only. “As long as they don’t come and shut us down, we’re going to be okay. “

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