• Stuart Benson

‘The worst is still yet to come’

MRC des Collines now in the red zone

The MRC des Collines was placed into the ‘red’ for COVID-19, which is the province’s level 4 maximum alert designation, on Oct. 10, ushering in a fresh round of lockdown measures due to an increasing number of new cases and outbreaks in the region.

The designation is also intended to discourage an influx of travellers from Ottawa to the region, who are affected by Ontario’s new stage 2 restriction.

(From left) ‘Sandwichist’ Tom Werbo and co-owner Jeff Hardill outside Kaffé 1870 in Wakefield on Oct. 12 have gotten pretty good at adapting to the ever-changing rules and restrictions. In August, after a preemptive closure over a possible COVID-19 contact at the Village House and a broken freezer that cost them $1,000 in lost food, Kaffé 1870 launched their “real-deal, high quality” deli-sandwich menu, lovingly-designed and made by Werbo himself, including meatballs and pork and in-house smoked meat. Stuart Benson photo

Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green said she participated in a conference call with the mayor of Gatineau the morning of Oct. 10, where she was informed that the announcement would be made later that day.

“It was very last minute,” Green explained. “Given that Ontario made the announcement of the increased restrictions [on Oct. 9] and, given our proximity to Ottawa, there was concern that there would be an influx of people coming from the Ottawa area into the Outaouais.”

Green said that the government was specifically concerned people would be travelling to the Outaouais for restaurants, cafes and bars during Thanksgiving weekend.

Possibly due to the timing of the announcement on the Saturday of the long weekend, it seems like many did not receive the message.

According to Green, there was increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Old Chelsea Road on Oct. 10 and 11.

“The big concern in the village is Old Chelsea,” Green specified. “The problem is the road is provincial, so it's under the jurisdiction of the MTQ and the provincial police — there's a lot of layers of government involved trying to manage traffic.”

Old Chelsea Road did receive some needed traffic management on Oct. 11, when sections of Gatineau Park and several entrances were closed after vehicular traffic began to overwhelm the roads and parkways. Police blocked access to parkways at the Boulevard des Allumettières entrance and at the intersection of Fortune Lake Parkway and Dunlop Road, according to the National Capital Commission. The NCC announced at noon that parking lots around Luskville Falls were full, and by 12:30 p.m. the Pink Lake parking lot had reached capacity.

In the coming weeks, Green is asking residents to use common sense and avoid groups of people in order to slow the spread of this new wave of infections.

“CISSSO told us that community transmission is at 84 per cent in the Outaouais,” Green explained.

She pointed out that, in the first wave, infections in the region were largely concentrated in senior residences. In this second wave she said, “We're looking at the highest percentage of spread between the 20-to-29-age category and then 30 to 39 and 40 to 49. It's worse than the first wave and the worst is still yet to come.”

Businesses adapting quickly

Shelley Crabtree, president of Wakefield La Pêche Chamber said she has seen businesses adjusting at a “rapid pace” since the announcement on Oct. 10, quickly adapting to the new measures to accommodate their customers and remain open under the new restrictions.

“I think some people were anticipating it,” Crabtree said. “It's heartening to see and I'm hopeful, but how the next few weeks are going to go is anyone's guess.”

She said the important thing is for business owners to stay positive and keep forging ahead, and for locals to continue supporting those businesses.

Crabtree’s main concern, however, is whether or not these restrictions will be followed and enforced by those outside the region, rather than within the Outaouais.

“It's still unclear to me how travel is going to be managed. Are people going to stay home and if they don't, what happens?” Crabtree wondered. “This weekend will be the first full weekend with these regulations in place, so we'll see if it works.”

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