Manitoba opens new coronavirus isolation site for Winnipeg’s shelter population

A new 138-bed facility in Winnipeg is opening to help the city’s shelter population self-isolate due to COVID-19.

The Alternative Isolation Accommodation (AIA) site is opening in stages, adding to spaces already open in Winnipeg.

Read more: Manitoba sees new grim milestone: 301 deaths from COVID-19

“A surge in cases within our homeless shelters is putting a strain on the number of beds in the system, as well as on staff needed to support this critical work,” said Manitoba’s Families Minister Heather Stefanson in a government release.

“Our government is committed to protecting Manitobans from the pandemic. We are taking action to address these challenges by investing in new spaces for vulnerable people who have COVID-19 or need to self-isolate, responding to an increasing demand among our homeless population.”

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Click to play video 'COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacting Manitobans experiencing homelessness' COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacting Manitobans experiencing homelessness

COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacting Manitobans experiencing homelessness

The new location brings the number of alternative isolation sites in Winnipeg to five, including one managed by the First Nations Inuit Health Branch and operated by the Canadian Red Cross.

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The province says site managers from across the city are working together to manage capacity at the facilities.

Community partners, including Main Street Project, are providing the support. Currently, up to 16 people per day from Winnipeg’s shelter population are being referred to the sites, the province says.

Click to play video 'Those experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg brace for another harsh season' Those experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg brace for another harsh season

Those experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg brace for another harsh season – Oct 21, 2020

“In the spring when the pandemic was initially approaching our community, Main Street Project responded quickly to offer this vital service,” said Bobbette Shoffner, interim executive director of Main Street Project.

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“We will continue to work together with our partners and our community to expand capacity, and ensure we have adequate space for people who have COVID-19 or must isolate safely.”

Read more: Homelessness brings extra COVID-19 challenges to an already vulnerable population

The province says that as well as serving the shelter population, the sites can also provide space for health-care workers and other Manitobans who do not have access to private bedrooms at their homes, or those who live with someone at greater risk of COVID-19.

There are now 14 AIA sites across the province, including nine locations throughout northern Manitoba, with plans to open new hotel locations in Brandon.

Last week Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said health officials are looking at getting rapid testing for more vulnerable people.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

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