Brandon’s families and businesses collapse again as COVID-19 outbreak hits town

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Some parents and business owners in Brandon are not waiting for the province to increase the city’s risk level of COVID-19 before taking action.The southwestern Manitoba city, located about 200 kilometers west of Winnipeg, was the epicenter of the province’s largest COVID-19 hotspot. As of Wednesday afternoon, the city was treating nearly 90 active cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

This has prompted some parents – like Mandy Newfield – to seriously question whether or not their children should be back to school in less than three weeks.

“It’s stressful,” the mother of three told CBC News on Wednesday.

Newfield, a single mother, has children in Grades 4, 5 and 10 in Brandon. Her children also have special needs and she is concerned that the right help and protocols are not in place.

She also wonders how her two youngest children will tolerate wearing masks all day, after the province announced Wednesday that all students and staff in grades 4 and up would be required to wear masks at school if the physical distance requirements cannot be met.

For now, Newfield has decided to homeschool his children, despite the added stress it will place on his family.

“You have three kids in three different areas and it’s tough when you’re a single parent,” she says. “I cannot ask my mother to help me because she works in the hospital and she could be exposed to other people exposed to the virus.

“They are stressed, upset because they cannot visit their friends, their teachers, their family,” Newfield said of his children. “They miss birthdays, Easter. ”

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Brandon helped solidify Newfield’s decision.

She said that as cases increased in the cluster, the less comfortable she was going back to a more normal summer.

“I forbade my kids to go to the park,” she said, adding that she couldn’t be sure that physical distancing and hand washing would be available, especially if there was any. ‘other children and families.

“So it’s not safe for us to go to the park,” she said.

Businesses reintroduce restrictions

Some members of Brandon’s business community are also going back, reinstating restrictions that were previously lifted.

“I noticed a few other businesses that have closed as a precaution,” said Spencer Day, president of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve seen people shut down parts of their businesses, restrict occupancy and that sort of thing. ”

Chilli Chutney, a restaurant in west Brandon, has closed its dining room again due to the outbreak, according to a post on its Facebook page, again choosing to only offer take-out and the delivery.

The situation in Brandon is being watched closely by Manitoba public health officials. Provincial director of public health Dr Brent Roussin said on Wednesday that Brandon’s risk level could be raised to orange, or “restricted,” in the coming days.

The risk level for the province as a whole is currently yellow, or “caution,” which means community transmission of COVID-19 is considered to be at low levels. An orange level, according to Roussin, would be put in place if stronger evidence of community spread began to emerge.

Chili Chutney restaurant in Brandon, Manitoba has chosen to close its dining room again due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the city. (Riley Laychuk / CBC)

NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew asked on Wednesday why more was not being done to respond to outbreaks in places like Brandon.

“We have a very serious situation in Brandon, and yet we have not put in place additional precautions to protect these people,” he said at a press conference.

Dozens of companies need masks

Day said Brandon’s business community is doing everything they can to stay safe and open. He said more than 80 businesses in the city now require customers to wear masks when shopping, for example.

“We have a real desire to get things done to really find what our new normal is and not back down,” he said. “The first shutdown in mid-March was devastating for many businesses. And there are many companies that obviously continue to be hit hard.

Newfield said she would not feel safe sending her children to school until Brandon returned to just a handful of active cases, and that she would closely follow any updates on the situation.

Day said the business community, too, will take things one day at a time.

“There is such a desire from our business community to stay open and give everyone a fighting chance to figure this thing out that they are taking the right steps,” he said.

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