There are 12 active cases of COVID-19 among people who access services at the temporary homeless shelter in Red Deer. They are isolating at an unknown location. (File photo by Advocate staff).

There are 12 active cases of COVID-19 among people who access services at the temporary homeless shelter in Red Deer. They are isolating at an unknown location. (File photo by Advocate staff).

COVID-19 outbreak discovered at Red Deer homeless shelter

Twelve cases are active, 43 people are isolating

Forty-three people are isolating in an unspecified location after the latest COVID-19 outbreak at Safe Harbour’s temporary homeless shelter.

Executive director Kath Hoffman said on Thursday that she was notified last week that some of her clients had tested positive for COVID-19 after being swabbed at either the detox centre or the Overdose Prevention site.

According to Alberta Health, 12 active cases linked to the shelter are part of this outbreak, which was not caused by variants of the virus.

Others are isolating because they have been a close contact.

“As with any outbreak, health officials are working closely with the operator and anyone exposed to prevent further spread,” said Alberta Health’s assistant director of communications Tom McMillan.

“This includes offering testing and ensuring that any close contacts are in quarantine and connected with any necessary supports.”

Hoffman noted this is the second active viral outbreak at the shelter — a previous one in October resulted in only a couple of viral cases.

Alberta Health Services does not divulge where contagious and potentially infected people, who can not isolate at home, are housed. But Hoffman confirmed they are not currently staying at the temporary homeless shelter at the former Cannery Row Bingo site.


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Safe Harbour did not conduct COVID-19 testing on the 43 individuals — Hoffman said the OPS and detox facility have testing equipment to swab people who are exhibiting symptoms of the new coronavirus.

Positive test results are then shared with the shelter since these organizations have many of the same clients.

On Wednesday, the roomy temporary shelter space was credited for being large enough that health officials could contain viral spread, and prevent it from spilling into the general population.

The City of Red Deer’s community development general-manager, Sarah Tittemore, told city council Wednesday that authorities could implement rapid, on-site testing and contact tracing at the Safe Harbour shelter, “highlighting the importance that this site serves as a critical health support.

“Without a similar site, the broader community’s COVID-19 risk may increase…”

But Safe Harbour is now trying to find another location for the temporary shelter at the behest of city councillors who want it moved away from downtown businesses, which have complained about crime and social disorder scaring away customers.

Hoffman said Safe Harbour is working hard on finding a site that “serves everybody well” — homeless people and the business community.

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