“It is certain that Hawkesbury was not spared by the pandemic,” said Mayor Assaly, during a December 11 phone interview. “The people of Hawkesbury have been dominated by the pandemic.”
The mayor observed that COVID-19 “destabilized life in the community” because it was a new virus that the medical community knew almost nothing about at the beginning and thus could provide little information to the general public. This created uncertainty and worry to most residents during the early weeks of the pandemic when Prescott-Russell was in lockdown along with the rest of the country.
Since then, medical research has provided a better understanding of the virus and now vaccines exist to fight it. But the impact of the pandemic, Assaly noted, will last beyond the day when the emergency state of health is finally cancelled.
“This virus demanded that we change our ways,” she said, “at work, at home, everywhere. Whether you were a child or a grandparent, you had to adapt to a new way of life.”
The short-term effect of the pandemic included mandatory wearing of masks or other protective gear for day-to-day activities like grocery shopping. Social distancing has been normal. The limits on public and private gatherings, as part of the public health safety protocol, are still seeing resistance from some individuals, but Assaly noted that most people accept and try to follow the guidelines to reduce the risk of community spread of the disease.
Hawkesbury has suffered its share of fatalities from COVID-19, Assaly noted, and also the pandemic forced some businesses to close down because they were not able to adapt to the new reality. Other businesses had to cut back on staff to survive the lockdown and the later restrictions set by the provincial government as part of the economic restart plan.
“We still have difficult months ahead of us,” said Mayor Assaly, adding that hope exists now with the discovery and approval of vaccines to fight the pandemic. “We need to be patient for a little bit more. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think that at the time that this crisis is over, we will be stronger and more creative. This has been an opportunity for us to discover different ways of doing things and becoming more efficient.”
She urged residents to try to focus on positive things in their community. “We still have a place to live, we have water to drink, we have functional sewers, we have roads we can drive on, and we have grocery stores,” she said. “Therefore, it not sheer desperation (for us). I have a lot of hope for the future, and I’d like to encourage the citizens of Hawkesbury to keep on looking on the bright side.”