Thanksgiving and Halloween are just around the corner and Quebecers usually gather among friends and family to pick apples and pumpkins.
With coronavirus still kicking, this weekend is looking a little different this year.
“It’s getting harder and harder. It’s our last weekend for apple picking, so we still have some people coming in but it’s slower,” said Patricia Daoust, owner of Magie de la Pomme.
The greater Montreal area is painted in red with 1,097 new COVID-19 cases reported on Saturday.
During Friday’s press conference, Quebec Premier Francois Legault made it clear that he wants people to stay home this weekend.
“My message before the long weekend is loud and clear: stay home with the people you live with,” he said.
Despite the premier’s message, some still felt they could be safe while outdoors this weekend.
“Apple picking is a tradition so we would usually call up our family and friends and meet up at the apple picking place but this year we didn’t do that,” said Marie-Therese Nguyen, who was at Magie de la Pomme on Saturday.
“There are different activities with different risk levels and I think apple picking, being outdoors, is very low risk,” added Nguyen, who brought her young child Dylan dressed up in a Flash costume.
Daoust thought the warm weather and long weekend would bring her more business on Saturday, but her orchard and pumpkin patch is nearly empty.
Farms, like Magie de la Pomme in Saint-Eustache, Que., are used to line-ups of cars and people on weekends.
Some say this made it easier to practise safe social distancing.
“I think that people decided to just stop and stay in home,” said Samantha Nardo, a mother of three who was at Magie de la Pomme on Saturday. “But if you’re able to keep your distance with people, I don’t see why you shouldn’t continue living.”
Pantelli Sambatzis, who came from Montreal to pick apples with his family, said the lack of people is a sign that people are fearful of the virus.
“People have fear people don’t know how to social distance, they’re not cautious. … It’s just a basic understanding of sanitary conditions,” he said.
Travel is still being discouraged by the provincial government. On Friday, it announced police checkpoints would be set up in areas across the province.
According to Daoust, local police have been helpful in keeping her business alive and well.
“Every weekend, twice a day, the police (come by),” she said.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy on anybody. Business owners, children and even parents are struggling to find a balance.
“I had no one to pick my apples. I was almost crying at the beginning of the season,” Daoust said.
“Three young kids under seven could not be locked up in a house and I feel terribly bad for people who do not have a yard,” Nardo said.
For many, the reward of being outdoors with family is worth it.
“I think the balance between the mental health and what we need to do has to always be re-assessed,” Nguyen said.
“Having Thanksgiving and Halloween … (October is) a rough month, so I think this gives us a breath of fresh air.”
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