Worries and accusations about transmission of COVID-19 have ramped up locally since Barry’s Bay and Area was tagged a “COVID hotspot” on Thursday, Feb.18 by Dr. Rob Cushman, Acting Medical Officer for Renfrew County and District (RCD). Because Dr. Cushman specifically mentioned compliance concerns about post-secondary students, we asked the only post-secondary institution in our area, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC), for their reaction. SWC Acting President Dr. Christine Schintgen (pictured above) outlined the College policies as follows:
“In response to Dr. Cushman’s mentioning of post-secondary students needing to be more compliant, I support his call for any of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom students to follow the COVID-19 protocols if they are not doing so. I would remind your readers again, however, that most of our students are in fact compliant. Also, we have not had any COVID-19cases among faculty, staff, or students so I don’t think the college should be targeted as a main source of spread of the virus. Still, we will continue to increase our efforts at educating students about the importance of observing the guidelines, and we will keep on working with the health unit to ensure that we are following best practices.”
Because the SWC Reading Week ends the weekend of Feb.20-21, we asked Dr. Schintgen how SWC will ensure compliance with public health requirements by any students returning to Barry’s Bay from areas under different COVID-19 restrictions. She was very clear:
“First of all, some of our students are staying in residence during break and we encouraged them to do so by offering free rent (they would normally pay to stay in residence over the reading week). Second, we did make it clear that if anyone went out of province they would have to quarantine when they got back. Third, we have cautioned students to be very careful when they are away, and when they return, to observe all the health protocols, especially in the first two weeks after they get back.”
Although the College website lists Come and Visit Weekends, Dr. Schintgen told us that they held the January Come and Visit entirely online. SWC’s website shows that the next Come and Visit Weekend is scheduled for March 12-13 and informs any visitors that because of COVID-19, prospective students and parents are not permitted to visit the student residences; potential students and their parents will need to find their own accommodations off-campus; and that SWC also reserves the right to cancel a “Come and Visit” weekend should the COVID-19 situation require it.
Dr. Cushman warns “Less is best” in new video
On Feb.19 Dr. Cushman released a video message entitled “Concerning Trend Update” on the RCDHU’s YouTube Channel in which he repeated his concerns about the Barry’s Bay and Area “hotspot.” Because recent cases required significantly more contacts to be traced; that is, 15 to 20 people instead of up to 5 or so, Dr. Cushman said this indicates that people are not limiting their social circles in accordance with public health guidelines. He emphasized that we should not let down our guard during lunch breaks at work and any recreational times, and we should instead continue to practise all recommended protocols to protect ourselves and others. He pointed out that the “Virus loves to associate with people”and concluded with the advice, “Less is best.” Click HERE to watch Dr. Cushman’s video.