Testing expands in hard-hit Mauricie, as authorities try to gauge spread of virus
Public health hopes to reach broader population and respond quickly to potential outbreaks
Health authorities in the Mauricie region hope by bringing testing right to residents' doorsteps, they will be better able to track the spread of COVID-19.
A Trois-Rivières city bus and a decontamination unit from the Shawinigan fire department have been revamped to offer curbside testing, starting in the region's larger cities this week.
A third mobile unit is already in use in the Drummondville area.
Karine Lampron, the assistant director of primary care services for the CIUSSS Mauricie–Centre du Québec, said the region is currently doing about 700 tests a day but has the capacity to process 1,300 tests in its lab.
The hope is the mobile units will up numbers by 150 to 200 tests a day and allow public health to target testing to areas considered potentially at risk.
"When the unit comes to a neighbourhood, the team will go ringing doorbells, talk with people about their health, and if they have symptoms, we'll invite them to be tested," Lampron said.
She said the mobile teams will do preventive work as they travel, reminding people of the measures they need to take to keep the virus from spreading and what symptoms to watch for.
Lampron said the mobile unit operating in Drummondville has already provided an added public health benefit: the team doing door-knocking there has come into contact with people who are dealing with mental health issues like stress and anxiety.
Those people might have slipped through the cracks without that encounter, Lampron said, and they're now getting help.
Region hard hit by COVID-19
The mobile units will be able to respond quickly to reports of potential cases in CHSLDs, businesses or schools, and authorities are promising test results within 24 hours.
The Mauricie–Centre du Québec has been among the regions of the province most seriously affected by the pandemic, outside the greater Montreal area. To date, there have been 1,887 cases — which amounts to 70 per 10,000 population, the fourth-highest infection rate in the province — and 176 deaths.
Many of those deaths have been in long-term care homes, notably at CHSLD Cloutier-du-Rivage in Trois-Rivières, where an active outbreak has killed 31 residents to date, and at CHSLD Laflèche in Shawinigan, where 44 residents died.
Shawinigan Mayor Michel Angers said the crisis sparked by COVID-19 at the CHSLD Laflèche is unlike anything he's seen in his ten years as mayor.
"You're in a situation where you can't get control of this invisible enemy that's affecting the entire community," he said.
Although the number of new cases in the region is showing signs of slowing, Angers said more testing in the general population is crucial.
"The reopening is causing people to get lax about physical distancing, and that slacking off could mean we'll be hit by a second wave.''