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Edmonton social agencies preparing as coronavirus cases climb

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Social agencies in Edmonton are taking preventative measures to ensure the city’s vulnerable population is protected against the novel coronavirus.

Louise Traynor, chief operating officer for the Bissell Centre, said their clients are more vulnerable than the average Edmontonians.

“A number of our clients have chronic respiratory challenges.

“They experience other challenges in their life that have compromised their immune system, other illnesses, so that makes them more susceptible,” she said.

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Traynor also said those without permanent addresses are more at-risk.

“That will make them more vulnerable because they don’t have somewhere to go home and make soup and recuperate,” she said.

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She said staff are working to clean commonly touched surfaces and public spaces more often.

Traynor also said staff and volunteers are being asked to stay at home if they develop flu-like symptoms or if they have been contact with someone who has been traveling.

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Boyle Street Community Services is trying to incorporate good hand hygiene and other health habits into conversations with its clients.

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“We’ve got several sinks for soap and water. We’ve had a sink with soap and water installed in the middle in the middle of the drop-in for a while now already so community members do have access to good hand sanitation,” said Denise Ogonoski, a registered nurse with Boyle Street Community Services.

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It is business as usual right now for the centre, but the social agency is now making preparations in case the virus prompts service interruptions or changes, such as limiting access to the building or shutting the building down altogether.

Marliss Taylor is a co-lead of the COVID-19 response at Boyle Street Community Centre; she normally runs the Streetworks program.

“If the building were to shut down, we would be looking at an alternative way to provide the service.

“Perhaps we would extend the hours of our van. We may have teams that are out in the community doing outreach as opposed to being within the building and having people come,” she said.

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Taylor said the facility currently has enough supplies, such as sanitizer and toilet paper, to get through the situation.

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During an update Friday morning, interim city manager Adam Laughlin said shelters that assist Edmonton’s homeless have been identified by Alberta Health as a one of the higher-risk areas.

“It’s been flagged by Alberta Health… in terms of needing to take some actions or some plans to address that.

“We have been reaching out to those agencies, and we had a meeting yesterday, folks are having meetings with staff today, and then we have a broader meeting next week.

“It is identified already as one of the high-risk potentials and the province and the city is ready to respond.”