‘Frustrated as hell:’ Barry’s Bay COVID-19 outbreak closes businesses

BARRY’S BAY, ONT. — A new outbreak of COVID-19 in Barry’s Bay, Ont. has resulted in two closed businesses and nearly two-dozen high-risk contacts.

The Renfrew County health unit is reporting three new confirmed cases that started with a visit from southern Ontario.

Twenty-one high-risk contacts now have to isolate, a fresh example that Canada is not yet out of the pandemic.

“We’ve had very few cases in the last month, but invariably they all come from away,” said Dr. Robert Cushman, Renfrew County’s acting medical officer of health. “Either someone coming in or someone going out and coming back.”

Cushman said of the 21 close contacts, 11 have not been vaccinated.

“What we’re seeing now is this, what President Biden has called the pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

The Ash Grove Inn would normally be packed on a sunny Friday, but two staff members testing positive have forced it to close, leaving owner Wendell Henry “frustrated as hell.”

He says the weekend shutdown will cost the inn about $20,000.

The other confirmed case in the community is a staff member at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College.

“There were some students between semesters who came up for a visit from out of town, and then went back home and tested positive for COVID,” said Christine Schintgen, the college’s interim president.

Local business owners and public health officials said they believe members of the college community specifically are not taking the pandemic seriously.

“Because people don’t want to vaccinate, they’re not taking it seriously for whatever reason, and they don’t want to wear a mask and they’re not taking precautions,” Henry said. “It’s affecting everyone.”

Added Cushman: “This group has been a challenge from the word go in terms of recognizing the pandemic in terms of distancing in the community, masking, and certainly the vaccination rate.”

Schintgen said the government’s policy on vaccines is that it’s a matter of individual conscience, so that’s the college’s policy as well.

“We’re a college and like most colleges we have a diversity of views on every possible topic, and COVID is no exception,” she said.

“We do have a divergence in views, but we unite under the need to follow the regulations and enforcing them on campus. So we find common ground on that, but people are free. They have academic freedom to express their different views on the subject.”

Barry’s Bay is about 190 kilometres west of Ottawa.

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