OTTAWA -- A pub in Carleton Place is closed as the local health unit investigates a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected at least 20 people.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has detected “a significant increase with 20 people infected with COVID-19 in the past four days in and around Pakenham, Almonte and Carleton Place,” the agency said in a news release.

The infections started with exposure to the COVID-19 virus at a social gathering, the release said. One infected person at the private gathering spread to a household and then businesses, recreational sports teams, families and child care.

A notice on the Thirsty Moose Pub and Eatery’s Facebook page said it would be closed until further notice after recent exposure of COVID-19 at the restaurant.

The restaurant’s owners declined to comment further, referring CTV News Ottawa to the health unit’s release.

Public health has contacted all those infected and their close contacts. A pop-up testing site will be set up for Thirsty Moose contacts in Carleton Place in the coming days.

The health unit said people who attended The Thirsty Moose Pub and Eatery on the following dates may have been exposed to COVID-19 between the hours of 4 p.m. –10 p.m.:

  • Sunday, Feb. 21,
  • Tuesday, Feb. 23,
  • Thursday, Feb. 25 and
  • Friday, Feb. 26.

Nearby business owners expressed sympathy for the pub’s owner.

“I feel very bad what happened,” said Sam Maalouf, the owner of Milano’s. “Imagine, he had to close the door, he has about 25 people working for him and these people are at home now, not doing anything.”

Carleton Place resident Mike Martell said he considers the Thirsty Moose “probably the best pub, restaurant in Carleton Place as far as I’m concerned.

“They follow all the rules. There’s no problems. All the waitresses have masks. When we go in we wear a mask,” he said.

Another resident, Kristen Card, said the outbreak hits close to home.

“It’s the town watering hole and I think everyone enjoys going,” she said. “It’s really sad that this is what’s happening.”

The region is under the province's 'green' restrictions, meaning bars and restaurants can open indoors with distancing or barriers required between tables, face coverings required except for when eating or drinking, and no buffet-style service allowed.

Anyone seeking more information can visit the health unit's website.

Variant of concern in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark

The health unit also said Wednesday a resident tested positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern. It’s the first person in the region to have tested positive for a variant.

“The news of a screened positive variant of concern locally reinforces how important it is to continue following public health guidance very carefully,” Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paula Stewart said in a release.

The health unit did not say which variant the person tested positive for, or whether it was related to the outbreak.