Locally, and across Ontario and Québec, hospitals are closely monitoring people for symptoms of the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus in patients and have measures in place to contain and treat the disease if it is detected.

“We have a very detailed plan,” said Michael Cohen, CEO of Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria.

He said a lot of the plans date back to when Ontario experienced the SARS outbreak in 2003, but the plan was reviewed recently when COVID-19 became a concern.  Staff are being updated on proper procedures and on how to use personal protective equipment like masks and gowns.

Cohen explained that if a patient suspected of having COVID-19 arrived at Glengarry Memorial Hospital, they would be isolated in a special room in the emergency department that has a separate ventilation system from the rest of the building.  The hospital has no intensive care unit, so the patient would likely be transferred to Ottawa if they had COVID-19.

The Centre multiservices de santé et services sociaux d’Argenteuil, which includes the hospital in Lachute, is using protocols and tools that have been put in place at all hospitals in Québec that are designed to specially triage respiratory symptoms for COVID-19 and contain it if it is detected.  No cases have been detected in Lachute or the Laurentides region.

Québec has designated four hospitals, two in Montréal and two in Québec City to take charge of specialized care for any COVID-19 cases that are diagnosed in the province.

The Review contacted Hawkesbury and District General Hospital (HGH) for information on their COVID-19 preparedness, but had not spoken with anyone from HGH by press time.

Three local pharmacists said they have not seen any examples of more customers wanting prescriptions filled quickly in case the coronavirus prevents them from going to the pharmacy, or if certain medications become scarce.

“It’s not an issue really for now,” said pharmacist Daniel Larivière at the Jean-Coutu pharmacy on Main Street in Hawkesbury.

Larivière did say however that increased demand for up to 100 different drugs in China as a result of the COVID-19 situation there could put a strain on the supply and demand.  However, that challenge has not yet materialized.

Pharmacist George Gabra says that a few people are stocking up on extra medication at Vankleek Hill Pharmacy.

“It is always a good idea to have a week or two supply of medications ahead, especially in the winter-time,” said Gabra, adding that being reasonably prepared for an emergency is always a good idea.

But at the same time, he says that some people are worried about a pandemic and possible quarantines.

People should generally be cautious, follow the health guidelines, stay home if they are sick and contact their family physician if they have symptoms which need attention, Gabra says. The pharmacy is not sold out of hand sanitizer, but the location is currently sold out of N95 face masks, but he says he is working on getting more in.

At Shoppers Drug Mart on Spence Avenue in Hawkesbury, pharmacist Remon Michel said most of the increased customer demand is for protective products like hand sanitizer and he has not seen any increased demand for prescriptions.

“People are worried about the virus itself,” said Karine Pilon, a pharmacist at the Familiprix drugstore in Grenville.

“Not that I can think of,” was her answer when asked about increased demand for prescriptions due to COVID-19 related concerns.

Pilon said the best thing people can do to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus is to wash their hands and use a mask if they think it is necessary.

At the Canadian Tire store in Hawkesbury, an assortment of masks, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizers are in the first display customers see upon entering the store.

To learn more about the coronavirus, how to avoid it, and what local public health authorities are doing to prepare, go to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit website: https://eohu.ca/en

Bilingual information about coronavirus for Québec residents is available at: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/