A Snapshot of COVID-19 In Barrhaven Two Years Later

By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent

It’s been two years since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Ottawa, two years since the lives we knew changed. 

In the 731 days since, Ottawa has recorded over 63,000 cases and over 750 deaths related to the virus. In actuality, Ottawa Public Health says the number of cases could be five to 30 times higher. 

Barrhaven ward has recorded 3,462 cases in the past two years, according to data released Feb 14, and Gloucester-South Nepean has recorded 3,408 confirmed cases. 

Out of the 22 municipal wards, Barrhaven had recorded the second highest number of confirmed cases, with Gloucester-South Nepean coming in at a close third place. 

When you look at the number of cases per 100,000 people, Barrhaven fairs out better at 11th place, and Gloucester-South Nepean comes in at eighth. 

The data does not include cases from long-term care or retirement homes. 

Below is a timeline look at all the COVID-19 related news Barrhaven and the surrounding areas have faced over the past two two years. 

March 2020

March 2, 2020: Ottawa’s top Doctor Vera Etches, a name who would soon be known by everyone across the city, said it was a matter of time before cases were reported in Ottawa linked to travel. 

March 11, 2020: Ottawa Public Health officially declares the first case of COVID-19 in the capital. The individual, a man in his 40’s, recently travelled from Austria and was isolating at home. 

March 12, 2020: As kids were getting ready to start their March Break, all publicly funded schools in Ontario would remain closed until April 5. The same day Ottawa recorded its second case, a woman in her 40’s, with recent travel to Italy. The NHL and OHL were also forced to suspend their seasons. 

March 13, 2020: Large lines start to form outside Barrhaven big-box and grocery stores. The Costco on Strandherd reported hours wait times, with toilet paper being a hot ticket item to find. The LCBO at Marketplace also see’s many people flocking before the looming shutdowns. City cultural and recreational facilities, including the Walter Baker Centre and Minto Rec Centre, announce they will close until April 5.

Lines start to form outside the Barrhaven Costco in mid March 2020. (Charlie Senack Photo)

March 16, 2020: Bars and restaurants are asked to close, but could remain open for delivery and take-out. Barrhaven’s Heart and Crown was among the first to close, resulting in the cancellation of all St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Lone Star among others quickly followed suit. The Barrhaven BIA announces they are either cancelling or postponing all their events for the next month, including an open house to discuss the future of Barrhaven Downtown. The Barrhaven Legion also decides to close their doors. 

March 25, 2020: The first Ottawa person died after contracting COVID-19. The male in his 90’s, was living at home and developed a fever on March 15. He had no recent travel history and was admitted to hospital five days later. At this same time, Ottawa’s top Doctor Vera Etches said up to 4,000 infections could be present in the community, however only 43 were confirmed. People were being asked to stay home and avoid contact with others. 

March 26, 2020: Magnus Paulson and his wife Leah, both musicians, hold musical concerts on their Alameda Drive porch to entertain residents during a time of uncertainty. 

March 27, 2020: Ross’ Independent Grocer is among the first in Ottawa to offer a special designated time for immunocompromised people and the elderly to get groceries, in order to avoid the crowd. Ross said in an interview with the Barrhaven Independent: “There is lots of space around and people don’t feel like they are in each other’s personal space. People have been really appreciative and thankful that we are doing this.”

A sign in Neil Nesbit Park warns people to practice social distancing. (Charlie Senack Photo)

April 2020

April 1, 2020: After two weeks of asking people to stay home, traffic on Ottawa roads was down 50 per cent.  Checkpoints greeted anyone looking to cross the Ottawa/Gatineau border. That same day, Ottawa recorded a jump of 50 new infections, the highest daily case count reported yet. 

April 2, 2020: The NCC closes all urban parks. They remained open for pedestrians, however benches, gazebos, play structures, and picnic areas were off limits. 

April 5, 2020: While schools were hoping to re-open for in-person learning, it was becoming clear this pandemic was going to be around for a little while longer. The Ontario government launched its ‘Learn At Home’ program to get kids learning again. 

April 14, 2020: With parks closed for walk through traffic and gatherings prohibited, Ottawa ByLaw issued 24 tickets over the Easter long weekend. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said over 500 calls were received. 

April 16, 2020: A month after Ottawa residents were asked to start practicing physical distancing, the city recorded a total of 678 COVID-19 infections and 14 deaths. Dr. Etches renewed calls to only go out for essential purposes such as: grocery shopping, going to a pharmacy, or caring for a loved one. 

April 17, 2020: Canada Day in Barrhaven is postponed until a later date. Organizer Darrell Bartraw said they were hoping to have a big party to celebrate their 40th anniversary. 

April 23, 2020: Ottawa Public Health launches a map to show where COVID-19 cases are being reported in the city. She says both urban and rural areas are being affected. Etches also says COVID-19 would be with us for the “foreseeable future”, including restrictions. 

April 25, 2020: Outside St. Patrick Elementary School, a “community cares’ corner popped up, where those who live in the area could borrow a book, puzzle or hockey stick. Some food items were also left for those who may have lost work because of the pandemic. 

The community came together to support one another during the early stages of the pandemic. (Charlie Senack Photo)

April 30, 2020: Ottawa Mosques, including the one in Barrhaven, are granted noise Bylaw exemptions to allow for five minutes of prayer to be broadcast over a loudspeaker every evening during Ramadan. 

May 2020

May 1, 2020: A month and a half after restrictions started to be imposed, Ottawa ByLaw said the warning phase was over. Tickets would be distributed to those not complying with the regulations. To date, 104 tickets have been issued. 

May 3, 2020: The Barrhaven Food Cupboard says in the last two months, calls for assistance have been up 11 and a half per cent because of the pandemic. 

May 6, 2020: Parks in Ottawa re-open, however playground equipment remains closed. That meant children were allowed to run around or fly a kite, and people could sit on a lawn chair or picnic blanket. 

May 11, 2020: After being closed for two months and no pay cheques coming in, stores were allowed to re-open for curbside pickup and delivery only. 

May 18, 2020: A little over two months after the first laboratory confirmed case was discovered in Ottawa, the city recorded a total of 1,802 COVID-19 cases, and over 200 deaths. By this point, 48 Ottawa residents were in hospital. There were 23 ongoing institutional outbreaks, the worst at Carlingview Manor, where 102 residents and 61 staff were infected. The death toll in the home sat at 46. 

May 19, 2020: With no sign of cases slowing down, the Ontario government announced school was out — at least in the traditional sense — for the summer. Learning would continue to take place online and graduation ceremonies would be postponed until the fall. That same day the City of Ottawa announced off-leash dog parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, and sports fields could be used, however playground equipment was still off limits. 

May 20, 2020: Ottawa starts tracking COVID-19 cases by ward. Barrhaven had the third highest rate of infections. 

While typical graduation ceremonies were cancelled, grads were celebrated with congratulatory signs. (Carol Anne Meehan Twitter)

June 2020

June 12, 2020: With summer on the horizon, COVID-19 case counts in Ottawa trend downward. Social gatherings are allowed to happen with 10 people, and social circles are introduced. Physical distancing is still encouraged. And for the first time in three months, malls and stores could re-open, along with barber shops and hair salons. 

June 15, 2020: With graduation celebrations on hold, congratulatory signs start popping up on Barrhaven lawns. The initiative was first started by St. Francis Xavier and St. Mother Teresa High School, and quickly grew.  

June 20, 2020: The pandemic closures were too much for Barrhaven’s Carte Blanche Spa on Strandherd. Owner Roy Jouni said even with a lower rent, it would still be about $10,000 a month for the space. He had to close his Barrhaven shop permanently. 

June 26, 2020: With patios now open, restaurants are looking for creative ways to serve as many customers as possible. Barrhaven’s Boston Pizza expands their patio with a tent in the parking lot. 

An employee at Barrhaven’s Boston Pizza sanitizes outdoor patio tables. (Charlie Senack Photo)

July 2020

July 1, 2020: With traditional Canada Day celebrations cancelled at Clarke Fields, along with the firework display, a drive by classic car show was held for all seniors and long-term care residences in Barrhaven. 

July 6, 2020: While already encouraged, masks become mandatory for all indoor public spaces. Masks had already been made mandatory for those riding on OC Transpo buses or the LRT. 

July 10, 2020: The Barrhaven Legion says despite many legions across Canada struggling financially because of the pandemic, they are in a good place. Barrhaven Legion President Stephen Guy said even if closures last until September, they could stay afloat. 

July 16, 2020: As trends continue to head in the right direction, and Ontario enters stage three in its re-opening plan, restaurants re-open for indoor dining along with movie theatres and gyms. A day later play structures can again be used in local parks. 

Classic Cars go down Strandherd on Canada Day in July 2020. (Charlie Senack Photo)

August 2020

August 1, 2020: As a new month starts, Ottawa has recorded over 2,500 COVID-19 infections. The demographic changes and it’s more young individuals who are becoming sick. One charge and 95 warnings were issued for people not complying with the mask mandates, and all restaurants and bars must begin contact tracing. 

August 27, 2020: With the return to in-person learning just weeks away, Dr. Etches warns an uptick of daily COVID-19 infections are coming. She also says Halloween won’t look normal this year, and Ottawa’s state of emergency will be extended at least until the end of September. 

Students returned back to in-person learning for the first time in six months in mid September 2020. (Charlie Senack Photo)

September 2020

September 3, 2020: With some students beginning the school year in-person, health officials warn that transmission will be present in schools. All school boards begin to deal with a shortage of bus drivers with many opting not to return. About 20 per cent of Ottawa students decide to remain virtual. Barrhaven continues to have the third highest rate of COVID-19 infections. 

September 7, 2020: Less than a week after some schools returned to the classroom for in-person learning, COVID-19 began to pop up in schools, with five impacted. 

September 19, 2020: Monsignor Paul Baxter Elementary School in Barrhaven is the first school in Ontario to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Two students and te9 staff members are infected. The school will remain closed for two weeks. 

September 22, 2020: Ottawa breaks a new single day record with 93 new cases recorded. The previous record was 76 set back in April. Ottawa’s top Doctor Vera Etches said we were close to the red zone, meaning the situation was getting severe. 

October 2020

October 2, 2020: As cases in Ottawa continue to climb, “targeted restrictions” are imposed which will limit diners at restaurants to 100 (no more than six per table), and a maximum of 50 people at gyms. 

October 9, 2020: Ottawa, Toronto and Peel enters a modified stage 2 which will close restaurants for indoor dining. Movie theatres and gyms must also shut their doors. The restrictions are expected to last four weeks. 

Ottawa residents were asked to not go trick-or-treating for Halloween in 2020. (Charlie Senack Photo)

November 2020

November 7, 2020: After being closed for a month, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, and gyms can reopen under “organize restrict.” 

November 10, 2020: Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod announces tax reductions for small businesses during a virtual press conference. 

November 11, 2020: While the traditional Remembrance Day celebration in Barrhaven is cancelled, a small service is held at Capital Funeral Homes with less than 25 people in attendance. 

November 15, 2020: With the annual Santa Claus Parade and Santa Claus breakfast cancelled in Barrhaven, a virtual addition was held instead. And to spark some joy in the community, the Barrhaven BIA is decorating the trees on the corner of Strandherd and Greenbank with blue and white lights. 

As winter arrived, COVID-19 cases started to climb. Many returned to curbside pickup to avoid crowded stores. (Charlie Senack Photo)

December 2020

December 18, 2020: The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Ottawa, a hopeful sign the pandemic is behind us. But Dr. Etches warns physical distancing and masks will be needed for a little while longer. 

December 21, 2020: Christmas is just days away and fear is the virus will spread at alarming rates due to holiday gatherings. The government of Ontario announces a 28-day lockdown will take effect Boxing Day, a decision which left Mayor Jim Watson “blindsighted.” While cases were climbing in many parts of Ontario, Ottawa remained stable. 

December 25, 2020: While many businesses reported a lack of sales during 2020 due to shutdowns and restrictions, Toys on Fire in Barrhaven said they saw their numbers increase, and credited online shopping and pickup for the success. 

December 26, 2020: On a day usually filled with Boxing Day sales and long lines outside some Marketplace shops, the parking lots remain empty. Retail shops, gyms, and restaurants are all forced to close. 

December 31, 2020: As the year comes to a close, Ontario sets a new single-day record with 194 new cases. A day later the city will surpass 10,000 confirmed infections. Talks of a new variant start to surface across the globe. 

January 2021

January 5, 2021: It’s back to school for students, but classes will again be held virtual. 

January 6, 2021: With the vaccine rollout underway, primarily for  healthcare workers, Ottawa announces 10,000 residents have received a shot. 

January 12, 2021: The government of Ontario issues a stay-at-home order, meaning people can only go out for essential purposes. 

As COVID-19 spread in the winter, capacity limits came to local toboggan hills and outdoor rinks. (Charlie Senack Photo)

February 2021

February 9, 2021: Ottawa records it’s first case of the B1.351 variants first detected in South Africa. Six cases of the B1.1.7 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, are also reported. 

February 13, 2021: A pop-up rapid COVID-19 testing clinic is held at Pierre Savard for any Barrhaven student. 1,904 people were tested, with only one positive result. 

March 2021

March 14, 2021: Ecole Elementaire Catholique Jonathan Pitre in Riverside South closes after reporting a COVID-19 outbreak. One student and one staff member are infected. 

March 28, 2021: Pierre Savard and John McCrae High Schools in Barrhaven report COVID-19 outbreaks. 

April 2021

April 1, 2021: Lockdown, reopen, then repeat. Ontario enters another lockdown as COVID-19 cases climb. Indoor and outdoor dining is not allowed, and retail stores need to operate at reduced capacity. Personal care settings and gyms need to close. 

April 7, 2021: Another stay-at-home order is issued in Ontario. Essential retail that is allowed to stay open will have to limit the sale of non-essential goods, a change from previous lockdowns. Dollar stores in Barrhaven had their isles taped off and covered in plastic, a similar scene also witnessed at Walmart. 

April 9, 2021: Dr. Vera Etches says she feels it’s unlikely schools in Ontario will reopen after March (turned April) spring break. 

April 11, 2021: Six pharmacies in Barrhaven begin to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those age 55 and older. 

April 17, 2021: Premier Doug Ford amends rules to allow for playgrounds to stay open during the lockdown. 

Some Barrhaven pharmacies were among the first to administer COVID-19 vaccines. (Charlie Senack Photo)

May 2021

May 24, 2021: Mountain Goat Yoga in Barrhaven offers free virtual classes while they are shut down, to help keep people fit, and improve their mental health. 

June 2021

June 2, 2021: The province confirms schools will not reopen for in person learning. Premier Doug Ford said the risk couldn’t be taken until more teachers and students are vaccinated. 

June 11, 2021: As vaccination numbers increase and COVID-19 case counts trend downwards, Ontario enters stage 1 of its reopening plan. It allows non-essential retail to operate at 15 per cent capacity, essential retail at 25 per cent capacity. Many outdoor activities including patio dining can also resume. 

Canada Day in Barrhaven was cancelled for a second year in 2021. Again classic cars took to the streets. (Charlie Senack Photo)

July 2021

July 1, 2021: For the second year in a row, Barrhaven Canada Day celebrations are cancelled. Another drive by classic car show is held, this time also including the Haven Affordable Housing Complex. Orange streamers also appear on the fence at Neil Nesbitt Park, and a firework display, while not allowed, attracts a few hundred. 

September 2021

September 4, 2021: As the city begins to feel more normal, a midway is held at Clarke Fields with a maximum of 499 people allowed at a time. It’s the first major event to be held in Barrhaven in a year and a half. 

September 29, 2021: A COVID-19 outbreak shuts down St. Benedict Public School in Barrhaven. It grows to 37 students infected.  It’s the worst school outbreak reported in Ottawa since the pandemic began. 

October 2021

October 4, 2021: Barrhaven records among the highest vaccination rates in all of Ottawa. Each community in Barrhaven reports over 85 per cent for at least one dose. 

October 31, 2021: Barrhaven East comes in fourth place for most COVID-19 cases in all of Ottawa at 49 cases during that month. The data is based out of 111 communities. Stonebridge-Half Moon Bay-Hearts Desire came in fourth place for most cases at 41 during that same month.

COVID-19 restrictions were lifted just in time for a traditional Remembrance Day Ceremony to be held outside John McCrae High School on Nov. 11, 2021. (Charlie Senack Photo)

November 2021

November 11, 2021: Just days before Rememnrance Day, COVID-19 restrictions were loosened enough for a more traditional ceremony to be held at the Barrhaven cenotaph outside John McCrae High School. The Barrhaven Legion said it was nice to see people gather in unity again to support our veterans.

November 24, 2021: Kids ages 5-11, who recently became eligible for vaccines, start to receive their shots. Appointments quickly book up. 

November 29, 2021: Ottawa Public Health looks for a rideshare driver who travelled from Montreal to Barrhaven on Nov. 24. The passenger later tested positive for COVID-19, so the driver was considered a close contact. That same day Ottawa detected its first case of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

For a second year in a row, the Barrhaven BIA lit the corner of Strandherd and Greenbank in blue and white lights, to celebrate the holidays. (Charlie Senack Photo)

December 2021

December 1, 2021: A COVID-19 outbreak is declared at Half Moon Bay PublicSchool after a handful of cases were reported. The school remains open, however multiple classes and cohorts were sent home as a result. 

December 5, 2021: The principal of Half Moon Bay Public School sends a letter to parents stating the school will close after a COVID-19 outbreak. 17 cases are reported. 

December 7, 2021: Ottawa Public Health says Barrhaven is a breeding ground for COVID-19 and is being transmitted through various community settings. Many schools in the neighbourhood are reporting outbreaks. 

December 8, 2021: Barrhaven Martial Arts Centre says at least 45 COVID-19 cases have been reported at their facility following an outbreak. They blame Ottawa Public Health for not doing proper contact tracing in time. 

At least 45 people became infected with COVID-19 after an outbreak at Barrhaven Martial Arts Centre (Charlie Senack Photo)

December 10, 2021: The COVID-19 outbreak at Half Moon Bay Public School climbs to 27 active cases, 25 among students. Ottawa Public Health says COVID-19 cases being reported in Barrhaven and Riverside South are double the city average. A suspected case of the Omicron variant is also discovered at Chapman Mills Public School 

December 13, 2021: The outbreak at Half Moon Bay public school doubles in a week to almost 70 infections. 

December 17, 2021: With a second pandemic Christmas on the horizon, it begins to feel a bit like dejavu. Ontario implements capacity and indoor gathering limits to control Omicron from spreading. 

December 25, 2021: Barrhaven’s Toys on Fire reported another successful year of sales, and is now considering a permanent move to a big box-style store. Supply chain shortages around the Christmas season however meant some stock, including advent calendars, didn’t arrive on time. Next door at Exhalo Spa, they set up a store full of local goods in their facility to support other small businesses. 

Before schools closed for an extended period after the Christmas break, Chapman Mills Public School reported one of the first cases in Ottawa of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. (Charlie Senack Photo)

January 2022

January 2, 2022: As COVID-19 spreads at levels never seen before thanks to the highly contagious Omicron variant, there are calls to keep schools closed following the winter break. Dr. Vera Etches is called “to take matters into her own hands” after the province says schools will open, but the city’s top doctor said she also supports a return to in-person learning. 

January 3, 2022: After saying just days before schools would open, Ontario changes its tune. Schools will stay closed for a few weeks, along with gyms and movie theatres. Capacity limits make a return to retail settings. 

January 10, 2022: The Barrhaven Food Cupboard says the pandemic caused an increase in demand. The amount of people they help rose 12 per cent in 2021. 

January 17, 2022: Kids go back to school after an extended Holiday break. 

January 31, 2022: Reopening the province started with dine-in restaurants and gyms allowed to reopen at reduced capacity.

Restaurants were excited to open again for indoor dining after another shutdown. (Charlie Senack Photo)

February 2022

February 11, 2022: Rapid tests are to be distributed at many grocery and box box stores along with pharmacies. Many locations in Barrhaven are on the list, with large quantities of kits reported. Each kit contains five tests.

February 17, 2022: Reopening continues with full capacity allowed in places where vaccines are checked.

March 2022

March 1, 2022: The province is the most open it has been in two years. Only the mask mandates and isolation requirements remain. All other restrictions lifted.

March 10, 2022: The Ontario government announces mask mandates will come to an end for most settings on March 21. They will be removed in existing settings such as on public transit, in hospitals, and long-term care homes on April 27.