Avalon facing a bleak, isolated Christmas
Avalon was a ghost town yesterday, with shops and cafes closed, Woolies almost deserted and even the local post office shut down as terrified locals of the northern beaches suburb either stayed home or joined the long queues for COVID testing.
The usually laid-back surfing mecca was suddenly a seething mass of fear, anger and frustration as it got ready to say goodbye to Christmas.
In the close-knit community almost everyone knows someone who was at the Avalon RSL on Sunday night dancing to the band called Nothing Too Serious, whose drummer tested positive on Thursday to the virus, along with an elderly couple who had hit the dancefloor.
Or they know someone who was at Avalon Bowlo on Sunday afternoon, where the elderly couple joined dozens of other grandparents and parents for a Christmas party for preschoolers. They are all now self-isolating.
The man is a keen surfer who meets up with his mates at the Sneaky Grind Cafe after hitting the beach. His mates have all been tested.
Or, if they had not been there themselves this week everyone knows one of the hundreds of tradies who have made Oliver's Pies one of the suburb's most popular cafes until it closed yesterday after the same couple lined up there on Monday morning.
Exclusive, private Trappers Way at Avalon Beach was in virtual lockdown after at least one of the positive cases attended the street's Christmas party of around 30 people on Sunday afternoon, which doubled as the annual general meeting of the committee in charge of maintaining the roadway.
A note posted at the street's entrance by the local committee said residents, "especially those who attended the TW AGM last Sunday, should get tested".
Another father who lived on the street but did not attend the party said it was a deeply frustrating time, particularly for his young children who needed to be tested and isolate.
"Very frustrating mate, very frustrating … I can't go to my (work) Christmas party, my Christmas party's today," he said.
Also farewelling Christmas are the members of the Nothing Too Serious band.
Guitarist Tony Le Bars said they were all really health conscious and did not think they had been the cause of the outbreak.
He said the drummer told them yesterday morning that he had tested positive.
"He's very sad, he is so conscious of his own health and of those around him," Le Bars said. "We have told him he is not to blame."
Le Bars said other band members were getting tested and self-isolating, but none of them had symptoms.
"The crowd is very local and very supportive. There is no blame game."
He said he had planned to visit his children in Queensland over Christmas but had now had to cancel. His father had suffered a fall and he could not help him.
"But everyone has their problems, it's not just me or us," he said.
He said Nothing Too Serious, a rock'n'roll covers band, had been so careful during the pandemic that they had not even been practising and had just started doing gigs again.
They have cancelled a planned concert for this Sunday at Avalon Bowlo.
With mayhem at testing facilities across the northern beaches, a pop-up centre opened in Avalon where a local, who asked to be named as Sam, said he was in one of the clubs the couple had visited at the weekend.
"There goes Christmas," Sam said. "It's buggered.
"Even if I get a negative result I still have to self-isolate for 14 days, and that takes us right over Christmas."
Sam and his partner said they had invited seven guests for Christmas lunch, as well as a bunch of friends popping in and out on Christmas Day.
Also waiting in line to be tested at the Avalon Recreation Centre was Liam Mitchell, of Clareville, who said he worked as a part-time bartender at the RSL.
"It sucks," he said. "I don't want to miss out on Christmas. I'm supposed to be going to Byron Bay on Boxing Day. And I don't want to miss beers with the boys."
Then came the news that another positive case had been confirmed in a woman who works at Pittwater Palms, a communal retirement village where almost every local knows someone who lives there or plans to move there themselves when they reach that certain age.
And it kept getting worse.
On Thursday night news broke of another 12 cases, bringing the total northern beaches cluster to 17.
NSW Health later pinpointed the RSL club as the likely source of the outbreak and it closed its doors for deep cleaning.
As she announced the earlier cluster numbers, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said at least two people, and possibly three, had been infected by an "unknown person" at the premises on December 11.
Originally published as Avalon facing a bleak, isolated Christmas