Every morning, Agnès repeated it to herself: “Go, go, go. “But it was this Friday that suddenly the septuagenarian decided, despite the already stifling 36 ° C at 11 am. In the parking lot of a home for young workers, in a popular neighborhood of Laval, she joined a traveling bus to take the Covid test. A swab in the nostril and, in less than two days, she will know if she has contracted the disease.
"I have no symptoms, but given the speed of the spread of the virus, I prefer to check", launches the perky retired. And then, she says, it's her way of bringing her stone to an edifice that is starting to take shape. Because, that's it, after several weeks of data, each more alarming than the next, Mayenne is catching its breath. In this department, bordering on Brittany, the number of new people positive for the coronavirus - this is called the “incidence rate” - has literally melted.
Two weeks ago, it stood at 143 per 100,000 inhabitants. This Friday, it rose to 36 and should even drop to 26 this weekend. Of course, it is always too much and beyond the threshold of vigilance, but what a road traveled in this territory of 300,000 inhabitants where the first clusters were housed in the slaughterhouses of the region. Omnipresent at the start of the health crisis, but very discreet lately, Jérôme Salomon, the Director General of Health, spoke again this Friday to salute the "very strong mobilization" of the inhabitants, who in his eyes have become "pioneers. To fight the crowned-head virus.
"Welcome to the plague victims!"
In Mayennais' memory, it had been a long time since we had talked so much about their department. The last time he was in the (sad) spotlight was in… “2001! », Says Robert Madiot, in the screening queue. That year, the first French case of foot-and-mouth disease was detected on a farm in Mayenne. “We were only talking about us for that, as today for the coronavirus. Every time a focus is put on the department, it hurts us. However, there are many things here, ”swears this 66-year-old former National Education officer, thinking of green walks, castles, the milk museum.
“Welcome to the plague victims! Don't you know that it is dangerous to come to the region? », Laughs (yellow) Julien, resident of the neighboring town of Saint-Berthevin. On July 1, seeing the runaway of its epidemic indicators, Belgium simply prohibited its nationals from staying in Mayenne.
"We have the label 53 ( Editor's note: the number of the department of Mayenne ) which sticks to our skin", breathes Agnès. Not long ago, his grandson Bryan and seven of his friends had to take the road south for ten days of camping. When the bosses knew they were coming from the department, they called back four hours before departure. “They told them they had a power cut… which was going to last a month,” she reports. Eight people on the floor! Finally, they went to Spain. "
16% of the population already tested
So inevitably, the words of the prefect on Friday ("Mayenne was exemplary") sound like a small victory, even a revenge for the inhabitants. Not only the incidence is in free fall, but the rate of positivity (including the number of positive cases out of 100 tested) also: 1.1% against 9% at the beginning of the summer. The majority of the positive (60%) are between 15 and 35 years old, which explains the few people in intensive care. “Our efforts pay off”, notes in turn, relieved, the director of the Regional Health Agency (ARS) Pays de la Loire, Jean-Jacques Coiplet.
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However, there is nothing original about the action plan: “Test, trace, isolate”. But the special Covid protocol is applied militarily. "Mayenne is the department in France with the highest screening rate", summarizes Jérôme Salomon. 46,646 PCR tests were performed, or 16% of the population tested. Human and material reinforcements came from the hospitals of Nantes or Rennes. In Laval, the city-prefecture crossed by the Mayenne river, at fixed and ephemeral points, has been added the itinerant bus, free and without prescription. Every day, under the aegis of Civil Protection, he travels through a different district, in direct contact with the inhabitants.
If Robert chose him on Friday morning, it is because the hospital could not give him an appointment for a test until the following Wednesday. Late, very late, when his wife Marie-Claude, resident of an Ehpad for two years, was tested positive for the coronavirus. "The nurse and my doctor therefore wanted me to do the test as quickly as possible," he explains to Marie-Hélène, as she prepares to insert the cotton swab which "makes the mustard rise in the nose ”. The Carcassonne nurse, like her colleague Céline Flammini from Ain, is part of the health reserve. Each has done nine and seven hours on the train and offered one of their three weeks of vacation to come and help the department.
Numerous tests, gatherings prohibited beyond ten people… but what strikes most is the discipline on wearing the mask, even though the mercury is climbing hour by hour. “We haven't seen anyone without”, can't believe Marco and Christine, a couple from Sarthois, in the saddle for the Vélo Francette, a cycle route that connects Ouistreham to La Rochelle. The arrival in Laval sets the tone: "Wearing a mask is compulsory", displays the city entrance sign in large size.
650,000 masks sent
Ditto in Mayenne, the medieval city north of the department of the same name. 69 municipalities have adopted the compulsory mask, 650,000 have been sent by the State to the department. "Rather than taking part in a hallucinating Mayenne bashing which greatly contributed to the erosion of tourists, I would have preferred that we underline the good attitude and the adherence of the inhabitants to good practices", thunders Luc Fautras D'Andreuil , manager of a brasserie on the Place de Mayenne.
Like many traders here whose activity is reduced by almost half, he shares the anger of the president of the departmental council. This Monday, Olivier Richefou blasted the "alarmist figures, without putting into perspective" the ARS, which "stigmatizes" according to him the department. "It would have been wise for the State to specify that, mathematically, the more we were going to test, the more cases we would find," said the restorer.
Legitimate caution or overzealousness ... the time has come to pursue the decline. Mayenne could "soon" return below the threshold of vigilance. An example which shows that "faced with Covid-19, there is no inevitability", according to Jérôme Salomon. Already, neighboring territories tend to be inspired by the device. But we know that its application in more urban and denser sectors is a different story.