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COVID-19: Traveller shocked to learn hotel also used as COVID isolation shelter

Warren Boucher, who travelled to Thunder Bay to visit his ailing 86-year-old mother, said he received no advance warning about the situation, from either the hotel or Expedia.
Warren Boucher
Warren Boucher of Toronto says he was angered to learn a hotel he'd booked in Thunder Bay was also being used as a COVID-19 isolation centre, adding he got no advance notice of the situation until he arrived at the hotel. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – A former Fort William First Nation resident says he’s still shaking after learning he checked in to a south-side hotel that it is also being used as a COVID-19 isolation centre.

Warren Boucher, who has called Toronto home for the past 11 years, says he received no advanced notice from either the hotel or Expedia, the booking agency, that people who had tested positive for COVID-19 were being housed on the hotel’s second floor.

Boucher said he arrived at the hotel, which TBNewswatch is not naming for privacy reasons, and was not informed there were COVID-19 cases in the hotel – though a sign at the front desk does indicate the hotel is an isolation centre – and now he’s worried he won’t be able to visit his ailing 86-year-old mother on the nearby reserve.

“I’ve been stressed ever since,” Boucher said. “I was surprised and angry, that I had to find it out from people yelling it out through the window to me, did I realize this was a COVID quarantine hotel, didn’t the front desk notify you?

“I’m shook, even now.”

Boucher said he went to the front desk to complain, politely, but wants answers.

TBNewswatch has reached out to both the hotel chain’s media department and to Expedia’s media department, but have not heard back. An Expedia spokesperson on Thursday said they were going to look into the situation. 

Boucher said at the very least both Expedia and the hotel chain should be up front with potential customers.

Had he known the second floor of the hotel had been designated as an isolation shelter, he would have chosen another location to stay.

Finding out upon arrival left him little choice. He believes hotels should have to disclose if they're housing COVID-19 patients and provide that information to booking sites like Expedia. 

Boucher said he’s on a fixed income and has neither a credit card nor a driver’s licence, just a status card. His daughters helped fundraise the money to send him to the Thunder Bay area and now he’s worried he won’t get to see his mother before he goes.

Fort William First Nation is on a strict lockdown to keep outsiders out of residential areas and Boucher said he’s been communicating with community officials to see what he needs to do to be allowed to visit, including taking another COVID-19 test.

TBNewswatch has contacted the band office to try to determine what Boucher would need to do to be allowed into the community, but have not received a response.  

He’s concerned his current hotel situation might cause him to be rejected for entry.

Boucher said he’s astounded a hotel chain would allow a portion of its facility to be used as a quarantine site and yet they still allow the general public to book rooms on the first floor.

“When they have outbreaks in long-term care homes, they don’t let people in there,” Boucher said.

The District of Thunder Bay is in Grey-Lockdown and travel is not recommended into the region, with exceptions made for extenuating circumstances, including end-of-life.

A tearful Boucher said if he doesn’t see his mother this time around, he may not get another chance.

– TBNewswatch

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