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P.E.I. accommodations for self-isolation shut down by complaints

The Lookout Inn is a seasonal operation in New Glasgow.
The Lookout Inn is a seasonal operation in New Glasgow.


A New Glasgow inn has been told to close its doors after repeated complaints flooded the provincial phone line.

The Lookout Inn is an eight-unit tourist operation run by James and Nicole Mitchell. Four of the units have separate entrances, and the couple decided to help people who needed a place to spend the 14-day self-isolation period before returning home to more vulnerable family members.

On Wednesday, April 8, Nicole Mitchell got the word from the Department of Health and Wellness that she had to stop taking in guests.

“We started this trying to help,” said Mitchell. “There are real issues out there that the public health office should be addressing. Now they’re being bombarded with calls about us, and we’re just trying to do a nice thing.”

The P.E.I. government website does state that bed and breakfasts and inns are not essential services.

Shortly after an article was published in The Guardian, Mitchell contacted MLA Brad Trivers to see if it was OK to continue operating. The response was positive.

“I asked the CPHO (chief public health officer) specifically about this and she said that if proper health protocols can be followed for self-isolating then places like yours are needed,” Trivers wrote in a message to Mitchell. “I am confident you are good to go.”

Despite the previous go-ahead based on need and protocols, the Department of Health and Wellness ceded to complaints.

An email from Tanya O’Brien, cc’d to Ryan Neal, both at the Department of Health and Wellness stated: “To date a number of concerns have been received from the public. The RCMP have also expressed concerns with respect to federal legislation and the Quarantine Act.   

“In response, the chief public health office discussed this situation and has determined you must cease operation. Based on the situation, there is concern about the potential spread of illness.”

It’s not clear which sections of the Quarantine Act would preclude the inn from offering a sanctuary, and the province did not elaborate.

Additionally, the department told Mitchell her operation was compliant with all the necessary cleaning and containment procedures.

James and Nicole Mitchell own The Lookout Inn in New Glasgow, P.E.I. - Contributed
James and Nicole Mitchell own The Lookout Inn in New Glasgow, P.E.I. - Contributed

Keith Mouflier, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said the email from the Department of Health and Wellness sends a double message to the accommodations industry.

“The inns and B&Bs were purposely shut down for that reason – to protect the owner/operators,” said Mouflier. “They’re the ones the put that in place initially. I find it interesting that (The Lookout) were shut down for just complaints.”

'HORRIBLY UPSET'

Islanders Joe Amelia and his wife, Mary Beth, are confused as well.

They’re staying at The Lookout now. Joe Amelia is unhappy no one else will get to take advantage of the inn’s generous offer.

“I am so horribly upset about this,” he said. “Nobody one else can come here. She’s had to call and say, ‘No. You had arrangements to come here and now you can’t.”

The Amelias are snowbirds who were due to return home to P.E.I. around now. They timed their self-isolation to end just as the weather warms enough to get the water hooked up to their P.E.I. home.

“We isolated for three weeks before we came home from Florida,” said Amelia. “I don’t understand people being upset. We’re from here.”

They travelled in a camper van and only got out at gas stops. Roads that are usually jam-packed were empty.

Even though she has had to cancel the remaining reservations, Mitchell is trying to remain upbeat.

“I have no regrets for doing what we did,” she said. “We could have helped nobody.”

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