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Homeless shelter faces major COVID-19 outbreak

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“It is so crowded. There are mats on the floor. When you are faced with the immediate challenge of do you put this person outside and potentially have them freeze to death tonight or do you let them sleep 12 inches from somebody else and potentially let them spread COVID, it is a little bit of a rock and a hard place,” said Muckle.

“Most of us don’t choose the freezing option.”

Dr. Jeff Turnbull, medical director of Inner City Health, told the province’s long-term care commission last month that, so far, any cases of COVID-19 in the shelter system have been relatively mild. He hypothesized that could be a sign of a kind of shelter immunity because people using shelters are exposed to so many things.

Meanwhile, Muckle said Inner City Health is ready to vaccinate the more than 1,000 people in the city’s shelter system as soon as vaccines are available.

“We are all sick of this. We are ready for the vaccine.”

Ottawa Public Health does not identify which shelters have outbreaks for privacy reasons.

“It is important that individuals who need customized care services, such as a shelter, continue to access them. To protect the privacy and reduce stigma, locations of congregate and specialized care settings in outbreak are not disclosed,” Ottawa Public Health said in a statement.

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A spokesperson said OPH is following up with those who have tested positive and is working to arrange safer locations where people can isolate.

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