Maniwaki area facing red zone restrictions as COVID-19 cases climb

·2 min read

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Outaouais, so do concerns that the area including Maniwaki, Que., could soon be declared a red zone, the most severe level on the province's pandemic alert scale.

During a media briefing earlier this week, public health officials with Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO) noted that by Nov. 11, they'd recorded 18 new cases of COVID-19 in MRC de La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau. That's compared to 22 new cases in all of October.

Currently, the Outaouais is at Level 3, or orange, on Quebec's pandemic scale, which is described as "alert with exceptions for some territories." Those exceptions are Gatineau and nearby MRC des Collines-de-l'Outaouais, which are already marked "maximum alert," or red.

CISSSO officials warned that if cases continue to rise in MRC de La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, it could soon join those other two municipalities in the red zone, which would mean closing bars, restaurants and gyms.

"If another blow happens like this, as we see elsewhere in Quebec, I'm not sure that the region will be able to handle [it]," said the regional municipality's warden, Chantal Lamarche, in a French interview.

Chamber of commerce worried

Lamarche believes schools are to blame for the current spike: an outbreak has been declared at an elementary school in Maniwaki, where four staff members and four students have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Maniwaki Chamber of Commerce fears further restrictions will take a toll on businesses in the region, and cause more unemployment. According to data from the Quebec Institute of Statistics, based on the latest data from 2016, MRC de La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau already has the third-lowest economic vitality in the province.

Simon Lasalle/Radio-Canada
Simon Lasalle/Radio-Canada

"In the La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau , no one wants us to fall into the red zone," said chamber of commerce president Agathe St-Amour in a French interview.

St-Amour also worries about the mental health of residents.

"With winter fast approaching, the days getting shorter, I think morale will be low," she said.

Others believe some further restrictions are exactly what's needed to avoid another lockdown.

"It might be necessary to tighten the screws a bit to avoid being in the red zone," said Nadine Brisson in a French interview. "We can still visit the family. It would be a shame to [have to] isolate yourself again."

"It's not good that we would fall into the red, but we have to take responsibility … so that people learn," resident Réal Fortin told Radio-Canada.

In an email to Radio-Canada, CISSSO said it has been visiting businesses in MRC de La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau to make sure they're familiar with pandemic precautions, and will be stepping up those visits starting Monday.