Thunder Bay

Rise in COVID-19 cases 'very concerning' for Rainy River mayor

The mayor of a small northwestern Ontario community where COVID-19 case numbers have risen sharply over the past week says what's happening in her town shows just how quickly things can change when it comes to the virus. 

Mayor urges other communities to take note of how quickly COVID can take hold

The small northwestern Ontario community of Rainy River has seen increased COVID-19 activity in December. (U.S. National Institutes of Health/The Canadian Press)

The mayor of a small northwestern Ontario community where COVID-19 case numbers have risen significantly over the past few weeks says what's happening in her town shows just how quickly things can change once the virus gains a foothold.

Between Dec. 19 and Dec. 29, 14 cases were reported in the Rainy River District. As of Wednesday, the Northwestern Health Unit was reporting 10 active cases in the area.

The health unit has advised the public that the increased activity is especially affecting the Municipality of Rainy River, home to a population of about 800 people. 

"It was kind of a shock because we've been really fortunate since March," said Rainy River Mayor Deborah Ewald, referring to the sudden rise in the number of cases. "Now we have from zero to 10 cases just in the matter of a week, two weeks at the most."

"And that's very concerning."

At this point, Ewald said she's most worried for Rainy River's older residents.

"We have a lot of senior citizens in this community," she said, noting that some of the cases are associated with an outbreak at the Riverview Manor seniors' living complex. 

Another concern, she said, is the limited health resources and number of healthcare workers in smaller centres like Rainy River, should the situation worsen.

Ewald said she's encouraging people to remain vigilant and follow public health measures in order to contain the spread. Complacency is a concern after so many months unscathed, she said, but increased diligence and caution in following health rules has been observed as case numbers have been on the rise. 

"It's frustrating because people should be following the public health guidelines and some aren't. And all it takes is one or two, and you put a large number of people at risk," she said. 

"And I think now that this has happened, I'm hoping that it'll kind of put a stop to it and we won't have [these] kind of cases again."

She said what's happening in Rainy River should also serve as a warning for people in other areas that have so far seen low case numbers. 

"And if nothing else, it's a good lesson for other communities," she said. "We were really fortunate right up until two weeks ago. We really didn't have any issues at all. With the border closed, you know ... it's been relatively safe."

"But it just goes to show you that you just never know." 

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