Gatineau woman describes atmosphere of fear in Florida

·2 min read

A former Gatineau resident who currently lives in Florida says the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has transformed her community into a place of fear and confusion.

Speaking with CBC's All in a Day on Tuesday, Julie Lavoie — who has lived in West Palm Beach for the past 12 years — said residents are almost constantly tense and unsure if others are taking the pandemic seriously.

"People don't know what to believe anymore, what to think," Lavoie said.

Over the past few days, Florida has recorded almost 40,000 cases, setting a record of 15,000 on Sunday, confirming another 12,000 on Monday and logging 9,000 new cases on Tuesday.

More than 4,500 people have died of COVID-19 in the state, and while numbers continue to soar, Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be sticking with comments made in late June that the state won't roll back its economic reopening plans.

However, it's not just strangers in grocery stores and in other public places whose attitudes have been changed by the ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this week, Lavoie celebrated her 50th birthday. Rainy weather meant there was basically nothing to do and nowhere to go, but concerns about the pandemic also meant Lavoie chose to celebrate the milestone on her own.

"I have some American friends, but you know what, I just decided to stay at home ... and enjoy myself, and that's fine," she said. "I didn't cry."

"My best friend is a Quebecer, she's in confinement since January, and she basically [doesn't] come at all," Lavoie said.

Economic concerns are ongoing

Lavoie said she began taking steps to protect herself against COVID-19 as early as January, when she first donned a face mask.

"I was like, 'OK, this is not going to be good,'" she said.

While she's continuing to take steps to protect herself against COVID-19, Lavoie said her concerns about the ongoing pandemic aren't just health related — she's also worried about her business.

Submitted by Julie Lavoie
Submitted by Julie Lavoie

Lavoie, a realtor, said the residential market is slow. Even clients that have signed contracts are baling out, she said.

"Supposedly right now, you have people from around the U.S. that want to come to Florida," she said.

"I hope it's true that they're all coming here, but at the same time, with the crisis we have down here, more people also means more COVID-19."

Acknowledging there are incentives to return to Canada, Lavoie said, the effort required to return means it makes more sense for her to stay in the U.S.

"I own multiple houses here, this is my home, all of my stuff is here," she said.