PEMBROKE, ON -- Renfrew County is wearing a personal badge of honour this Friday. It has been one month since a confirmed COVID-19 case has been reported in the county.

“We haven’t had a case in Renfrew County since June 24th, so essentially a month without a case,” says Renfrew County’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Cushman. “We’ve done a lot of testing; we’ve actually done about 17,000 tests to date.”

Of those 17,310 tests since July 24th, 27 came back showing a confirmed case of the virus. All but one recovered; that one being a death at a retirement home. That death also happened to be the first case confirmed in the county, resulting in Dr. Cushman focussing quickly on long-term care and retirement homes.

“We helped them with their infection control. We helped them with their Human Resources and day-to-day contact and ongoing meetings. We only had two cases, as I said, one death, but no real outbreaks in either case or any of our homes,” says Cushman.

Reigning in control over the retirement and long-term care homes was a key move for Dr. Cushman in keeping cases low across the county. Renfrew’s top doctor also acknowledges the small rural population and large geographic area helped stop the spread. However, there were other moves made early in the pandemic which Cushman believes stopped more people from catching the virus.

“Very early on we designated a single hospital as our COVID hospital [...] to keep folks away from emergency rooms who wanted to be tested who might have COVID,” says Cushman.

The positive trend comes as the county reopened with stage three, allowing more freedom to businesses and their patrons.

“There’s lots of people on the streets, lots of people with bags in their hands. They’re supporting local and it’s good to see,” says Jean Hughes, chair of the town of Renfrew’s BIA. “I know [businesses] have seen an influx of customers and people coming out. I think the restaurants are quite happy they can have a little patio and guests inside.”

With more freedom given by the province comes an increased responsibility for the public to follow the guidelines set out by the Renfrew County and District Health Unit.

“I think though that with everybody wearing their masks, there’s a great deal of people respecting that, keeping their distances,” says Hughes. “Businesses have their shields up and all that, all the precautions they need to take.”

Dr. Cushman recognizes the strides the county is making in keeping recent cases to zero, but also in the same breath says the area is lucky, pointing out the close ties and networking done between Ottawa.

“You rely on the cooperation of the public. So I have to salute the people of Renfrew County that they really took it to their heart and minds to do what they needed to do.”