Manoir Sherbrooke residents out in the open for the first time since March

By Gordon Lambie
Manoir Sherbrooke residents out in the open for the first time since March
(Photo : Gordon Lambie)

Standing under a cloudless sky in a parking lot a good 100 metres from the building, Manoir Sherbrooke Residence Director Gilles Lavoie called Wednesday the fourth best day of his life, after his wedding and the birth of his two children. Behind him, wearing masks and standing a minimum of two metres apart, residents began to trickle out of the building on the first supervised outings any of them has had since the facility was locked down on March 22.
“We talk about guardian angels, but I think we need even stronger words to describe what the people working here have done,” Lavoie said, adding that he considers the staff to have worked “daily miracles” in a time when they were being asked to completely reinvent their ways of operating.
“It was hard in the beginning, but we learned to live with the situation.”
The Manoir Sherbrooke foreshadowed in March what has become a nationwide crisis when, early in the local acknowledgement that the novel ­coronavirus was both present in the area, and a problem, several residents had to be hospitalized with confirmed infections. Although the residence was quickly locked down by the public health department, reports saw the case load in the facility rise close to forty over the following weeks.
On Wednesday, Lavoie reported 30 residents have been confirmed recovered, and no cases remain among the roughly 400 people who live in the facility.
“It is truly marvelous,” he said. “I have no words”
The director attributed the Manoir Sherbrooke’s success in getting through the outbreak in large part to the fact that, unlike the stories coming out of other hard hit residences in the province, the staff stayed on when things got tough.
“The problems we have faced since March 22 have been completely different than anything we had ever experienced before,” he said, speaking highly of the “phenomenal effort” put in by the staff to make the necessary adjustments to keep people as safe as possible.
Wednesday’s supervised excursion marks the beginning of a two week trial period where the residents, who are otherwise still isolated in their rooms, will be allowed one hour to move around in one of the residences five parking lots. Although the time outside will be beneficial, even spent behind a mask and at a distance from others, Lavoie acknowledged that it is not really what most of the residents are looking for.
“I talk to residents daily, and they are fed up with the isolation,” the director said, pointing out that the people in the building just passed the 50 day mark of being on their own earlier this week. “What people want is not to go outside, even if that is good, what they want is to go to the dining hall and socialize.”
That reality however, is a long way off.
“I don’t think things in the dining room will ever return to the way they were,” Lavoie said, explain that the Manoir used to offer a drop-in model for its dining rooms that saw people coming and going at all times of day. Having had to switch to room-by-room delivery in the context of the quarantine, the director said that it is hard to see when things might get back to anywhere near what people would consider “normal.”
“We never want to be back in that situation again,” he said, speaking of the outbreak.
Next week the residence administration will be meeting to reflect on how the situation has developed and make decisions about how best to move forward.
Ongoing struggles aside; Lavoie said he sees the residence as having overcome its greatest challenge.
“We’re succeeded,” he said. “It is truly extrapordinary.”
While Lavoie shared his reflections, some of those walking behind him started to sing as they made their way outside.
For 73-year old Diane Talbot, it was a day to celebrate
“Today I am dancing” she said, her eyes hinting at a smile hidden behind her blue surgical mask.

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