Mayor of town that has seen all Quebec's COVID-19 deaths feels left in dark

MONTREAL — The mayor of a Quebec town that has seen all four of the province's COVID-19 deaths to date says he is having trouble getting information from local health officials.

Christian Goulet, the mayor of Lavaltrie, said he wishes he had more to tell his citizens about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Provincial health officials have said the four deaths are tied to a single seniors residence in the Lanaudiere region northeast of Montreal, and in a statement Monday, Goulet identified the EVA Lavaltrie as the site.

"People are extremely worried about the situation," Goulet said in an interview. The town has just over 14,000 residents.

The outbreak and the resulting deaths have sparked heightened concern for seniors living in care homes. On Monday, Premier Francois Legault said he is tightening restrictions on the homes, prohibiting residents from leaving without supervision.

"It’s a tough decision, but it’s a necessary measure," Legault said. He explained that a small minority of residents have been going out, raising concerns of infection among their fellow residents.

"The last thing we want in Quebec is for the virus to enter in seniors residences," Legault told reporters in Quebec City. "It's where we could see the most disastrous results."

In his statement Monday, Goulet asked for more information and transparency from the regional public health authority.

He said that he was in contact with the authority's president and general manager Daniel Castonguay Saturday and was told there may be a press conference in the near future. But otherwise, he is still in the dark on the next steps.

"Everyone has a role to play in a situation like this," Goulet  said in the interview. "It's on the regional public health authority to inform the population on what measures have been put in place."

The health authority said in a statement that it has taken special steps to address the outbreak at EVA Lavaltrie.

Residents have been asked to stay inside, where they will be monitored, and employees must ensure they have no symptoms and are applying protective measures to ensure they don't get sick, the agency said.

In addition, the building has been disinfected, nurses and security guards will be on site, and the provincial police are providing help, the statement said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020.

 

Julian McKenzie, The Canadian Press