College, MV businesses and RCDHU battle fresh local COVID-19 outbreak

July 22 was a challenging day for businesses in Barry’s Bay as three statements were issued regarding temporary closure/staff shortages in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) followed by distributing a media release on July 23 warning residents of three new cases and as many as 20 high-risk contacts and four workplace outbreaks. Click HERE to read the full release entitled ‘New COVID-19 Cases in Renfrew County and District Bring Stark Reminder About Importance of Getting Vaccinated.’

Response from local businesses

Two Barry’s Bay businesses and Seat of Wisdom College had preceded RCDHU’s statement with their own messaging on July 22.

Ash Grove Inn: A positive COVID-19 result was confirmed just before the owners of the Ash Grove Inn completed the finishing touches for a big bash on Saturday July 24 to welcome new owners to the business after 26 years. Their initial Facebook post on July 22 informed customers that due to staffing shortages they would open only for take-out from lunch time and they followed up with more detail about hours and menus for the next three days. Social media commenters were quick to congratulate them on their transparency.

Madawaska Coffee Co. also used social media on the afternoon of July 22 to notify customers they had closed their Barry’s Bay café and again social media followers thanked them for their openness. The statement points out that only the Barry’s Bay location is affected; their new Pembroke café remains open.

Seat of Wisdom College issued the following statement in the late evening of July 22:

“We are sad to inform the community that a staff member of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College has tested positive for COVID-19. We understand that two SWC students on summer break, who later tested positive for COVID-19, unfortunately spread the virus among some members of the broader SWC community while on a visit to Barry’s Bay. We are working closely with the Renfrew County and District Health Unit to ensure that the staff member and close contacts in our employ are following the Health Unit’s instructions. The only course in session at this time is an online course. We will keep the community informed of any further developments. Thank you for your understanding.”

The response to SWC from social media readers was mixed. Some commenters offered prayers for recovery while others weighed in complaining about past involvement of SWC students and community in anti-mask or anti-lockdown demonstrations. Some SWC faculty members are on record questioning public health guidelines for masking and vaccination in online articles for platforms such as LifeSite News and Catholic Insights.

At time of publication, the fourth local business has not yet made a public statement. The Current will provide updates as information becomes available.



  1. Bruce Burnett

    Amen to Barbara Cardwell’s reply.
    If they can believe weird stuff like Angel’s, demons, resurrections, virgin births, transubstantiation, miracles etc, then conspiracy theories about vaccines and masks being government plots aren’t far off.
    Bruce Burnett

  2. Elodie Kennar

    Your bias against SWC is unfortunate… not to mention the bias of some Barry’s Bay community members who thank the other businesses for their transparency but condemn SWC for theirs. Bringing up the private opinions of a few individuals connected with SWC is unhelpful and uncharitable. They have nothing to do with the organization’s official stance and actions during this pandemic and now this outbreak. It is the ill people who matter here, not the apparent need to engage in further bigotry against a business which is a critical part of this community.

    Your Facebook page describes the Current as providing “balanced” reporting, which I have never seen as true the second SWC becomes involved in one of your stories. To both the Current and the community members who have decided to hate SWC while knowing nothing about it: do better.

    • Barbara Cardwell

      I’m not sure why you think reporting on this situation shows a bias against SWC by the Current. Is there anything they have reported that is not factual? Isn’t it true that it was students of SWC who caused this outbreak? Isn’t it true that faculty of the college have spoken out with their opinion of the pandemic not being serious, sharing anti-mask and anti-vaccine sentiments? Isn’t it true that the anti-lockdown and anti-mask protests that took place in town were organized and attended by SWC students?
      You are definitely correct to say that some of our community members have a bias against SWC, and I am one of them. The students and faculty have shown no concern or respect for the local community through their behaviour and actions since the start of the pandemic, and have continued to put us all at risk. The majority of students refused to wear masks into local stores last year until they were forced to, on top of the protests that they organized and participated in. Whenever concerns over these actions have been brought forward by community members, the college has done nothing but make excuses. Most of us firmly believed it was not a matter of if, but when they would be responsible for a local outbreak, and here it is. If you feel that’s being biased, then I’m quite alright with that.
      As for the college being a critical part of this community, again I firmly disagree, because I sure don’t believe this is true. Any business or organization that has shown this degree of disrespect for the community in which they operate is not needed.

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