Saskatoon meals financial institution, protected consumption website shut after COVID-19 instances
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Prairie Harm Reduction has been closed for two weeks while it remains unclear when the Tafel will reopen.
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23rd November 2020 • 23rd November 2020 • Read for 3 minutes • Join the conversation Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Saskatoon’s food bank and Saskatchewan’s only monitored drug use site have closed due to COVID-19 cases.
The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Center closed on Sunday evening after three of its 40 to 45 employees tested positive.
Laurie O’Connor, the food bank’s executive director, said the organization had hired professional cleaners to sanitize the work place in the Riversdale neighborhood. All employees have been advised to get tested and those who are considered close contacts with the positive cases are self-isolating.
O’Connor said she couldn’t say when the food bank, which serves about 18,000 people a month, will reopen. The food bank is asking the Saskatchewan Health Department for guidance, she noted.
“The best-case scenario would be Wednesday or Thursday and I don’t know what the worst-case scenarios would be,” she said in an interview on Monday.
The Tafel adapted its services to prepared baskets and supplies during the pandemic in order to minimize the number of people entering the building.
Jason Mercredi, executive director of Saskatchewan’s first monitored drug use site, said Monday the decision to close for two weeks as a COVID-19 precaution was a difficult one.
The Prairie Harm Reduction Site on 20th Street in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood has been closed for two weeks after an employee tested positive.
One of the site’s 42 employees developed symptoms on Thursday and began isolation before confirming a positive test on Saturday. The website closed on Saturday and is slated to reopen on December 7th, Mercredi said.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It was a tough decision. We’re the only place to warm up in Pleasant Hill. We’re the only public washroom in Pleasant Hill. There are a lot of people who rely on us for these two services, but we didn’t want to hunt COVID in our building for the next three months.
“We thought it would be safest to have a temporary shutdown now and then reopen in two weeks so we can catch any cases and prevent further spread.”
The website didn’t have to shut down from a single positive case, Mercredi said. All employees are now monitoring symptoms and being retested before returning to work, he added.
The website was closed on Friday due to a plumbing problem and all employees were asked to get tested on Sunday. A thorough cleaning of the building will be done by the end of next week, Mercredi said.
Since reopening in June, the website has been the first non-profit organization to require masks in the building and a COVID screener since it reopened in June, always taking “incredibly intensive COVID precautions”.
Customers are redirected to other organizations that may offer some of the same services.
One loophole is the lack of an alternative place to warm up, Mercredi said. The Prairie Harm Reduction Site was the only warm up place that opened the day after the big snow storm over the weekend two weeks ago, he added.
“So there are a lot of people who basically sleep outside and stroll the streets with no place to go.”
Also on Monday, the operations manager of the Luther Special Care Home, Ivan Olfert, said the number of confirmed cases at the long-term care facility in Saskatoon’s Varsity View neighborhood has risen to 34 residents and four employees.
Olfert said in an email that 23 employees are self-isolating. He admitted that the facility’s staffing levels had become “strained”.
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