COVID-19 outbreak: the mystery of the Baie des-Chaleurs

The Baie-des-Chaleurs region, in the Gaspé, is the one where there are the most active cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Quebec and it is only increasing. A “worrying and surprising” situation, according to public health authorities who claim to have been taken aback by the rapidity of this outbreak.

“In epidemiological terms, we are the worst region in Quebec” sighs at the end of the line Mathieu Lapointe, mayor of Carleton-sur-Mer and prefect of the MRC d’Avignon. ” This is very serious ! “

In fact, according to figures from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, there are nearly 250 active cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Baie-des-Chaleurs. This figure is by far the highest in Quebec. In second position, the city of Thetford Mines has 157 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the worst neighborhoods of Montreal and Quebec are between 118 and 139 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

“Baie-des-Chaleurs has two RCMs, but all the cases are concentrated in the RCM of Avignon, so we are more in the 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants,” says Dr.r Bonnier Viger, Director of Public Health in Gaspésie.

The first case was tested positive on September 18 and the next day his teams were already facing major outbreaks. As of September 28, there were 93 active cases in the Avignon RCM, about fifteen more cases than the day before. “We were ready to face a second wave, but not [à une vague] such brutality and force, “says Dr.r Viger.

A unique case in Quebec

“What is special is that unlike the rest of Quebec, where the second wave goes more through young people, in the case of Avignon, it is relatively old people, aged 70, who have spread the infection. between them. And this, probably from meetings in leisure centers, ”explains Dr.r Viger.

Epidemiological investigations are underway, but there is still a share of mystery around this outbreak. “We understand how it spread, but not where exactly it came from,” he says.

This is a “very active” and “tight-knit” community, adds Dr.r Viger. “There is a great closeness, the contacts of some are the contacts of others”, which explains why once the virus entered the community, it wreaked havoc. “I have no more explanation than that at the moment, but it is definitely a worrying phenomenon. “

Quickly, COVID-19 spread in the CHSLD of the municipality of Maria, as well as in the private residence Lady Maria. “The precautionary measures have been greatly strengthened in the two establishments, explains Dr Viger. We have a lot of back-up CISSS personnel. It has slowed down a bit at the CHSLD, but at the private residence, we are still at the start of the outbreak. “

There is a great proximity, the contacts of some are the contacts of others

The prefect of Avignon would like his MRC to be classified in the red zone by Quebec. But it is diluted in a larger basin, where the territory is vast and the number of cases very low. “We are the region where we have the most cases, where it is the most worrying, and despite everything, the entire Gaspé is in the orange zone,” says Mathieu Lapointe. It is quite a challenge to send the right signal to the population, to make them understand that it is not just the case of two residences for the elderly. “

The prefect claims to be in discussion with Public Health and the municipalities concerned. “We had better pretend we were in the red zone,” he said. I understand that the rest of the Gaspé is not in the red zone, but, back home, it is very worrying and a solution must be found. “

Bingo

Two weeks ago, Régent Leblanc was at the door of the Saint-Omer 50 years + club to welcome the 80 or so members who came to attend the weekly bingo. Wednesday night bingos are the biggest night around “even including weekends,” says the club president proudly.

Régent Leblanc had organized everything: questions and the disinfection station at the entrance, arrows on the ground and on the walls, clear procedures for those who wish to go out to smoke a cigarette, masks for those whose elastic is breaking in progress. evening, plastic screens for the volunteers who sell the bingo cards and tables reserved by bubbles for one to eight people. Most importantly, he took the name and phone number of each of the participants, a list he was able to provide to Public Health following the outbreak.

“With my data, people are easy to trace: we have provided some 200 names with telephone numbers to the department,” said Mr. Leblanc. Despite all the steps, no one can be sure that it comes from bingo. The virus did not come out of a chair, someone brought it there. If there are parties left and right, that people have been to the hangout on Monday and bingo on Wednesday, how do you tell if they caught it at bingo, at the mall or somewhere else? “

Régent Leblanc affirms that both the ministry and the CNESST carried out inspections during the activities of the club, which resumed its activities in August, and that everything was in conformity. But he remains the target of criticism. “We have participants who complained that we were taking too many precautionary measures and who, since the outbreak, have come back to us to tell us that we should have been more careful! A lot of people are cursed, because a member of their family attended the bingo. And there are also all the anti-bingos who are having a blast. I hear all kinds of things. “

Last Monday, in a special meeting, the board of directors made the decision to cancel all activities indefinitely and all of its directors went into quarantine pending their results. “We are following this very closely and we are ready to help anyone who needs help,” concluded Mr. Leblanc. The goal of the club is the well-being of the members and the community. That’s why we work in a very positive way. “

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