Three people test positive for COVID-19 in Union Gospel Mission outbreak

WINNIPEG — On Tuesday, the province announced several new outbreaks of COVID-19 at different facilities throughout Manitoba.

One of those places was Union Gospel Mission, which helps provide food for the less fortunate and also offers several programs to those who are struggling with addiction.

Frank Ulrich, who is the executive director of the mission, said three people in its men’s addiction recovery program at its location at 320 Princess St. tested positive for COVID-19.

With that, 15 other residents have had to self-isolate, along with six staff, four employees, and two interns.

Ulrich said they have plans in place to have the rest of the residents get tested.

“We’re in frequent contact with Public Health and they have indicated to us the best time for the individuals that are currently isolating in our facility would be Friday,” said Ulrich.

He said there are concerns that others in the facility may have been infected and because of that, he said they have essentially locked down the building on the advice of Public Health and they will not be accepting any more participants for their programs until the outbreak is under control.

“We’re taking steps to ensure no one that we serve from the community gets infected, potentially from those that are in our men’s addiction recovery program.”

With some of the staff also having to isolate, Ulrich said many of the employees are having to step up and cover off other duties that they wouldn’t necessarily handle.

“I shared with the staff yesterday, I said ‘well here’s the situation, by the way, we may be asked to work in different roles, we may be asked to work in different times than we’re used to working,'” he said, using the operations manager as an example saying they have had to go out and pick up food and medication and other items, which is something they wouldn’t normally deal with.

DEALING WITH MENTAL HEALTH IN ISOLATION

Ulrich also touched on how this could be difficult for many who are in the recovery program in terms of their mental health when they have to isolate for two weeks.

“It’s very difficult to share with them that their doors need to be closed. You know, there are people that struggle with claustrophobia and mental health and anxiety.”

He added that they are continuing to work with those who are self-isolating by helping them with their spiritual health, by either providing them with reading material or having chaplains call them while they are in their rooms.

Ulrich said they are working hard to contain the outbreak and hope they can start operating on a more normal level soon.

Mayor Brian Bowman said it is very concerning seeing this outbreak.

“We’ve seen what happened at some of our personal care homes,” said Bowman, who added the biggest concern with care homes has been staffing.

He said there are similar concerns in the shelter system in Winnipeg.

“While we are playing a collaborative role in direct outreach to many of the organizations that are providing services for our residents who are affected by homelessness as an example, unsheltered Winnipeggers. Making sure that the social services, housing, mental health, addiction supports, there’s a lot of complex and multifaceted services that are required and so we continue to press to make sure that the province is doing that planning to the greatest extent possible.”

Bowman added many of these facilities need help whether that be from the military or other supports from the provincial government.

Due to the outbreak, Union Gospel Mission has been moved to red or critical on the province’s pandemic response system.

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