The newly elected mayor of Botwood has only been on the job a few weeks and is already facing a town tragedy.
Two people in the central Newfoundland town died over the weekend, marking the 14th and 15th deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began and serving as a reminder of how deadly the fourth wave has been. In the first year and a half under the pandemic, the province marked seven deaths — but in the past month alone, eight people have died.
"It's close to home. Everyone in town, or say 70 per cent … would know these people and who they are, and to hear of them pass away so quickly and for not the right reasons, to get this illness and die prematurely, [it's] not good," said James Sceviour in an interview Monday.
"The town feels it and the town is nervous of the COVID itself."
An 83-year-old woman — described as a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother — died Sunday.
The other person who died was a 55-year-old man from the nearby community of Peterview who leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren. His obituary indicates he was a dedicated member of the United Pentecostal Church in Bishop's Falls, where there was an outbreak of the virus.
A town on edge
Sceviour said the loss of two community members has shaken the town of about 2,800. He said he was unsure how many people from Botwood have died of COVID-19 but believes to be four or five.
"We understand most of the COVID [cases] we have here are related to unvaccinated [people] and, of course, people are nervous of that. I understand people are trying to encourage others to get vaccinated."
Sceviour said the area's vaccination rate has grown to about 75 per cent, adding a recent vaccination clinic was overwhelmed by people wanting the shot. Still, the town's vaccination rate is not yet where Sceviour would like to see it. As of Sunday, nearly 84 per cent of the province's eligble population had been fully vaccinated.
Nervousness over the virus has been evident in the town's schools in recent weeks. At one point, a single student showed up for class at Memorial Academy, the town's kindergarten-to-Grade 6 school. Similarly, the town's high school experienced low attendance as students were kept home for isolation or by parents who feared them catching the virus.
Sceviour is encouraged, however, by the talk in town, which he said is encouraging others to get the shot.
"If I can send any message at all, it's get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated."