Barrhaven Martial Arts Outbreak Leads to Over 45 COVID-19 Infections

By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent 

A Barrhaven Martial Arts Centre has been linked to 45 COVID-19 infections, and the facility blames a delay in contact tracing for the spread. 

In an open letter the centre said high risk exposure first came on Nov. 22, bit weren’t informed for four more days. 

“On Monday, November 22, a child attended our After School Program. The following day, Tuesday, November 23, the child developed cold-like symptoms and stayed home to isolate, and also get tested,” the letter indicates. “Come Friday evening, November 26, four full days after the first exposure, we received a call from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to notify us of a High-Risk contact in the After School Program.”

The letter notes the Barrhaven martial arts facility reached out to all families to indicate the exposure, and almost all of them were impacted. 

“The following Monday afternoon, November 29, we received more information from OPH indicating several children in the After School Program had developed symptoms and tested positive over the weekend as the virus likely spread on Monday and furthermore Tuesday to Friday,” the open letter said.

Exposures occurred again on Nov. 26 during an evening kids’ Muay Thai class. Families were immediately contacted, and the centre shut its children programming  and moved to a virtual platform. 

on Nov. 26. Once again, families were contacted. The business chose on Nov. 30 to shut down its children’s program temporarily and offer classes over Zoom.

The Barrhaven Independent reached out to Ottawa Public Health on Tuesday to find out more about the growing outbreak. Here is what the health organization said:

“Ottawa Public Health typically does not publicly disclose the name of all possible COVID-19 exposures or outbreaks unless it is not possible to identify or contact all the people who have been exposed. In these instances, OPH may post an exposure on our Community Exposures webpage or release a public service announcement to reach the wider public. Otherwise, OPH uses contact information lists provided by the workplace to communicate directly with individuals who may have been impacted,” they said in an emailed statement.

“It is important for OPH to maintain positive and trusting relationships with businesses and members of the public as we rely heavily on their cooperation to provide details about close contacts during the case management process,” the local public health unit added. “To protect privacy and personal health information, Ottawa Public Health is unable to disclose additional information about these outbreaks.”

The letter also noted that an outbreak which occurred at Gracie Barra Ottawa, another location the centre owners, were not linked. That outbreak occurred in early November and none of the Barrhaven employees or students were there during time of exposure. 

News of a growing COVID-19 outbreak at a Barrhaven martial arts facility has been spreading online for days. The facility said they wanted to address the rumours which have been circulating, and set the record straight. 

Some believe the COVID-19 martial arts outbreak is also to blame for a recent outbreak at nearby Half Moon Bay Public School, and rising numbers of the virus in other local schools. Ottawa Public Health refused to comment, but noted extra curricular activities outside of school meant a higher risk of getting sick, and then transmitting the virus in settings such as schools.  

“The mixing of cohorts results in multiple possible transmission pathways, thereby increasing overall community risk,” they told the Barrhaven Independent. “To decrease community risk, all individuals must consider reducing group activities.  Indoor activities are inherently higher risk due to the closed environment with shared airspace particularly in situations of physical exertion.”

Half Moon Bay Public School, which now has 17 infections linked to the outbreak, will remain closed until at least Friday, when a reassessment will be made. 

The Barrhaven Martial Arts centre says they feel more could have been done to prevent the outbreak from getting this bad. 

“The simple fact is one case turned to many, due to a variety of factors,” they wrote in a letter. “Despite screening, attendance tracking, cohorting, sanitary practices, the single largest factor the OPH attributes to this outbreak is a delay in response and action. It took four days from the first High-Risk Exposure to the first contact from Ottawa Public Health in regards to High-Risk Exposure.”

They feel Ottawa Public Health could have done more to prevent this from occurring. 

“It is extremely unfortunate that one case grew and spread rapidly over the course of a week, under the radar, in our kids program,” they noted in the letter. “With a four-day delay in communication from OPH, we acted as quickly as possible to execute actions recommended by Ottawa Public Health. We cooperated in every way with Ottawa Public Health, and oftentimes contacted families to warn them of the risk before OPH was able to.”

The centre reopened on Monday, a decision Ottawa Public Health approved. The facility was also physically inspected by the health unit. 

(Barrhaven Martial Arts Centre Facebook Photo)