As the Omicron variant spreads through Toronto’s shelter system, the City of Toronto is doubling the number of spots where homeless people who develop COVID-19 can recover in isolation.
“The Omicron variant has had a tremendous impact on the community at large, and we’re seeing the same impacts play out within the shelter system,” said Anthony Toderian, Spokesperson, City of Toronto.
People experiencing homelessness face severe challenges in shelters. Most shelters aren’t set up for people who test positive for the coronavirus, so the city was running a 60 room isolation and recovery site for people to isolate.
Now, it is adding an additional 60 rooms and staffing resources through partnerships with Inner-City Health Associates, University Health Network, Parkdale Queen West and The Neighbourhood Group.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto Public Health has provided detailed guidance to the homelessness sector on the creation of effective isolation plans within congregate shelter settings to ensure shelter residents needing support have a place to safely isolate,” Toderian said.
Since the Omicron variant might lead to fewer symptoms, the Isolation and Recovery Site’s priority will be those with complex clinical, physical or harm reduction needs, including seniors, who test positive from congregate shelter settings.
“The City continues to take a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the shelter system and people experiencing homelessness, including rigorous infection, prevention and control measures,” Toderian said.
“N95 masks and rapid tests have been distributed to all City-funded shelter locations and on January 13 announced its work to deliver a two-week supply, or 310,000, N95 masks to all shelter sites for shelter client use,” he said.
“The city continues to remain vigilant about protecting people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron surge,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory.
“We have continued to evolve our response at every step of the pandemic to ensure the protection of people experiencing homelessness and the stability of the shelter system,” Tory said.