A COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday at the temporary 24/7 accommodation at the Edmonton Convention Centre.
The venue in downtown Edmonton was converted into a shelter space on Oct. 30 and is run by partner agencies Bissel Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed and Bent Arrow Healing Society.
In its first week, the temporary homeless shelter was seeing an average of 317 people daily. The facility is expected to remain open until March 31, 2021.
Those who tested positive “were immediately taken to an isolation space in the facility, before being moved to the Edmonton Isolation Facility run by Alberta Health Services. Contact tracing was immediately undertaken,” Bissell Centre said in an emailed statement.
The agencies have been following all Alberta Health orders and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include “mandatory screening at the entrance, temperature checks and a questionnaire.”
Additional precautions put in place include “enhanced cleaning, signage with distancing reminders and the use of personal protective equipment when responding to overdoses and other medical emergencies. Masking and distancing will continue to be enforced among participants,” Bissell Centre said.
Organizations said key services will continue despite the outbreak, including day shelter and meal services, overnight shelter, medical services, overdose prevention, cultural supports and housing supports.
Non-essential programming has been suspended for two weeks and “further adjustments to services may be made.”
“Protecting the health and safety of clients and staff at the temporary accommodations for individuals experiencing homelessness is of the highest priority. Operators will continue to work with Alberta Health Services to ensure the safety of clients, staff and the broader community.”
Edmonton’s interim city manager was asked about shelter space and capacity during a news conference on Wednesday.
Adam Laughlin said the city is still in ongoing talks with the province about expanding isolation spaces.
He said some shelter facilities are able to space sleeping cots two metres apart, while others don’t have enough space and have only 1.5 metres between cots.
“Some are able to offer the two-metre spacing, some are not. With cases rising, it’s a concern.”
“As folks know, the number of homeless exceed the space that’s available. So we have to find that right balance,” Laughlin added.
He thanked all the social agencies who are working hard — in the middle of a pandemic — doing this important work.
“I want to applaud the agencies and the great folks they have working… amazing under these circumstances.”
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