By Gordon Lambie
The regional public health director for the Eastern Townships, Dr Alain Poirier, told reporters on Monday morning that although he understands the frustrations expressed by those in the Haute-Yamaska and Brome-Missisquoi MRCs at being moved into red zone restrictions despite a low case count, it is not within his power to subdivide the measures in force.
The prefects of the two MRCs released a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon asking that their area be considered for a return to orange alert status, given that the number of active cases in each is low compared to other parts of the Townships.
“I understand their request,” Poirier said, sharing that he met privately with the prefects to discuss the matter. Ultimately, he said, the decision on the part of the province has been to maintain alert status across entire administrative regions as much as possible because people are not always aware of where one MRC ends another begins.
While the Granit MRC is currently under a different set of restrictions than the other parts of the townships, the public health director pointed out that the decision to take that step was made at the provincial level, rather than the regional one.
“There is never an even distribution across the territory,” he said, pointing out that earlier in the year the situation was reversed, with almost no cases in Granit and heavy infection in the Haute-Yamaska.
Speaking to the situation of the Townships as a whole, Poirier hailed Wednesday’s report of only 39 new cases as a “good decrease” even as he acknowledged that it comes too soon to attribute to the change in alert status. With 31 hospitalized, an additional eight in intensive care, and twelve new outbreaks being tracked, the region remains firmly in the red across a number of criteria but could be on track for a return to orange if things continue in the same direction.
There were also two new deaths recorded across the territory.
Addressing another subject of confusion and concern that came as a result of the shift in alert status, Poirier explained that the debate over whether to have local high schools shift to a hybrid in-class/online model for secondary three, four, and five students as indicated in the restrictions came as a result of how close the shift come to the end of the school year. With classes set to end at the beginning of June, the public health director said that it seemed like a lot of hassle to ask teachers to split teaching between class and home for what would essentially be nine days of each.
Asked about how an individual can be expected to stay on top of sanitary measures when they shift and change from context to context and are sometimes set up differently to account for particular circumstance, Poirier said that the work needs to be a collective effort.
“It is impossible to keep everyone up to date,” the public health director said, speculating that even he would likely fail a pop-quiz on red zone restrictions. “I have lots of sympathy and empathy.”
That being the case he argued that the solution lies in having each sector of society be aware of the restrictions that apply to their own context, and to help users be aware of what the rules are in that space.
“Every environment needs to know its own measures,” he explained, arguing that in this way the whole system can work without any one person being asked to remember everything all the time.
With regard to vaccination local campaign director Jean Delisle said that things are progressing well, with 43.5 per cent of the population having now received a first dose. Breaking that down by age groups, he pointed out that the 60+ age groups have already surpassed the minimum goal of 75 per cent, with those 16-59 working to close the gap as appointments become available.
On the subject of appointments, he said that Townshippers continue to fill them up almost as quickly as they are made available.
Asked if the decision on the part of several Canadian provinces to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine could have an impact on those waiting for a second dose in the region,
Delisle said that he is keeping a close eye on the situation, but he also pointed out that the final decision is out of his hands.
“I organize how we vaccinate, not what we are vaccinating with,” the campaign director said.
The Province of Quebec reported 745 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of people infected to 360,201, with 7,756 active cases. There were 11 new deaths recorded, but the total only increased by ten, to 11,012, due to the withdrawal of one death not attributable to COVID-19. There were 530 hospitalizations, a decrease of 10, and 126 people in intensive care; a decrease of 2.
A total of 3,918,884 doses of vaccine had been administered across Quebec as of Wednesday morning, accounting for 44 per cent of the population of the province as a whole.
The ministry of health and social services also announced that it is has changed its policies to allow a second dose within 28 days of the first for anyone with conditions that suppress their immune system or who are on kidney dialysis.