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More people at Calgary homeless shelters test positive for COVID-19

More people at Calgary homeless shelters test positive for COVID-19
WATCH: More people staying at Calgary homeless shelters have tested positive for COVID-19. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

More clients at Calgary homeless shelters have tested positive for COVID-19.

Three people who were staying the Drop-In Centre have tested positive, along with one guest at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope.

“To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat surprised that it took this long to get the first case,” said Dr. Chris Mody, professor and head of the department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

Testing was already occurring but now all staff and clients at the Drop-In Centre and at the Centre of Hope will be tested for COVID-19.

2 more cases of COVID-19 announced in Calgary homeless facilities
2 more cases of COVID-19 announced in Calgary homeless facilities

READ MORE: 247 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta Sunday; 2 cases confirmed at Calgary homeless centre

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Anyone who has tested positive or is suspected to have the novel coronavirus will stay at city isolation facilities.

Karen Livick, the executive director of the Salvation Army Centre of Hope, said the client who recently tested positive is now at one of those hotels. She says there are 180 clients at the centre now.

Nenshi discusses use of convention centre for Calgary’s homeless during COVID-19 pandemic
Nenshi discusses use of convention centre for Calgary’s homeless during COVID-19 pandemic

Mody said more cases are likely to appear now.

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“I think we’re going to see more and more of this, unfortunately. The advantage is we are now positioned so that we can actually deal with these clusters more efficiently than we could have a few weeks ago. So that’s a good thing,” Mody said on Monday.

READ MORE: Calgary TELUS Convention Centre to serve as emergency shelter amid COVID-19 crisis

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Since the start of April, the Calgary Telus Convention Centre has been set up as an emergency shelter with capacity for 350 people, which has helped with social distancing at the main centre.

“We knew this had the potential to happen and we’ve been working tirelessly for the last six weeks to prepare, and our front-line staff is honestly just amazing.

“The resiliency that this team has — it just wows me in a way that I didn’t even know was possible,” said Jenn Murray, director of human resources at the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

“The Convention Centre is a positive story that has come out of this environment. We moved our lower acuity clients over to the Convention Centee. It’s been a phenomenal partnership with Telus and our case management team that focuses on rehousing people who are experiencing homelessness are doing a wonderful job,” Murry said.

Hinshaw explains social distancing exemption for homeless shelters
Hinshaw explains social distancing exemption for homeless shelters

Calgary’s mayor says there are good protocols in place now for homeless clients but more could end up in hotel rooms that are being used as isolation centres.

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“At the moment, anyone who is positive will go to an isolation centre in a hotel.

“If we start to see a lot of outbreak within the communities that live in the shelters, we will have no choice but to put them into hotel rooms.   We just have to make sure this doesn’t spread because — we have seen with Cargill, for example, what happens with very rapid spread in a uncontrolled environment.

“And we certainly would have the potential for that kind of spread among the homeless community in Calgary,” Naheed Nenshi said on Monday.

READ MORE: Kinsmen being used as expanded overnight shelter for Edmonton homeless

Around 40 landlords have come forward since the Drop-In Centre put out a call for units priced under $900 per month. The Drop-In Centre is still pushing forward with its goal of housing 250 clients.