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Quebec town across from N.B. community with COVID outbreak gets testing centre

TORONTO — The mayor of a small town in eastern Quebec, just across the river from New Brunswick, says residents are breathing a small sigh of relief.

Pascal Bujold says people in Pointe-a-la-Croix have expressed fears that an outbreak of COVID-19 in nearby Campbellton, New Brunswick, could spread to their community.

Bujold said he pushed to open a COVID-19 testing unit in his community, over concerns that residents may have been in contact with a New Brunswick health-care professional who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

New Brunswick officials said this week that the health-care worker travelled to Quebec and returned to work without self-isolating, coming into contact with more than 100 people.

Eight cases have now been linked to the growing cluster that as of Friday has led to the adjournment of the provincial legislature and the rollback of reopening measures in the Campbellton area.

On Friday, the local health authority announced it would open a COVID-19 testing unit in the parking lot of the local clinic in Pointe-a-la-Croix, which is home to about 1,500 residents.

"Having a testing unit here I think is reassuring to (residents)," Bujold said in an interview.

"We would have liked this to happen faster," he added.

A spokesperson for the health authority, CISSS Gaspesie, said there were no active COVID-19 cases in Pointe-a-la-Croix.

But the authority also believes residents could have come into contact with the health-care professional who tested positive, Clemence Beaulieu-Gendron said.

Officials in New Brunswick have confirmed the health-care worker was in contact with patients at Campbellton Regional Hospital.

The man has been tied to several other infections in the region, including another health-care worker.

The chief executive of a New Brunswick health network said the worker has been suspended from work indefinitely after coming into contact with more than 100 people.

While New Brunswick shut its border to non-essential travel on March 25 to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, Bujold said residents of Pointe-a-la-Croix and other Quebec communities could still go to Campbellton to get essential services, such as health care.

"There's one kilometre that separates us," said Bujold.

"Our family doctors are in New Brunswick. Most of our dentists are in New Brunswick.... It’s like if you would go two streets over from your house."

Bujold said many Pointe-a-la-Croix residents also work at Campbellton Regional Hospital, including his own partner, who works as an MRI technician.

"Just her department, I think, has seven or eight (people) from Pointe-a-la-Croix,” he said.

Beaulieu-Gendron said Quebec residents who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms would be able to make an appointment for on-site testing in Pointe-a-la-Croix.

People will be able to remain in their cars as a nurse collects their samples, Beaulieu-Gendron said.

The testing unit will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, starting Monday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020.

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, The Canadian Press

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