Saskatoon meals financial institution, protected consumption web site shut after COVID-19 instances

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Prairie Harm Reduction has closed for two weeks, while it remains unclear when the food bank will reopen.

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Phil Tank Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Nov 23, 2020November 23, 20203 minute read Join the conversation Jason Mercredi, executive director at Prairie Harm Reduction, poses in front of the organization's drop-in centre. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Jason Mercredi, executive director at Prairie Harm Reduction, poses in front of the organization’s drop-in centre. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Saskatoon’s food bank and Saskatchewan’s only supervised drug consumption site have closed due to COVID-19 cases.

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The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre closed on Sunday night after three of its 40 to 45 staff members tested positive.

Laurie O’Connor, the food bank’s executive director, said the organization has hired professional cleaners to sanitize the workplace, which is located in the Riversdale neighbourhood. All staff have been advised to get tested and those who are considered to be close contacts with the positive cases are self-isolating.

O’Connor said she could not say when the food bank, which is serving about 18,000 people a month, will reopen. The food bank is seeking direction from the Saskatchewan Health Authority, she noted.

“Best-case scenario would be Wednesday or Thursday and I don’t know what the worst-case scenarios would be,” she said in an interview on Monday.

The food bank has adjusted its services during the pandemic to prepared hampers and delivery, to minimize the number of people entering the building.

Jason Mercredi, executive director of Saskatchewan’s first supervised drug consumption site, said on Monday the decision to close for two weeks as a COVID-19 precaution was a difficult one.

The Prairie Harm Reduction site on 20th Street in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood has closed for two weeks after one staff member tested positive.

One of the site’s 42 staff members developed symptoms on Thursday and began isolating before a positive test was confirmed on Saturday. The site closed on Saturday and is set to reopen on Dec. 7, Mercredi said.

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“It’s rough,” he said. “It was a tough decision. We’re the only warmup location in Pleasant Hill. We’re the only public washroom in Pleasant Hill. There’s a lot of people that are relying on us for those two services, but we didn’t want to be chasing COVID around our building for the next three months.

“We thought it would be safest to have a temporary shutdown right now and then to reopen in two weeks so that we can catch any cases and prevent any further spread.”

The site was not required to close from a single positive case, Mercredi said. All staff are now monitoring for symptoms and will get retested before returning to work, he added.

The site closed on Friday due to a plumbing issue and all staff were told on Sunday to get tested. A thorough cleaning of the building will happen late next week, Mercredi said.

The site has always had “incredibly intense COVID precautions” as the first non-profit to require masks in the building and a COVID screener since reopening in June, he noted.

Clients are being redirected to other organizations that can provide some of the same services.

One gap is the lack of an alternative location to warm up, Mercredi said. The Prairie Harm Reduction site was the only warmup location to open the day after the big weekend snowstorm two weeks ago, he added.

“So there’s a lot of people that are basically sleeping out there and wandering the streets that don’t have a place to go.”

Also on Monday, the operations lead at Luther Special Care Home, Ivan Olfert, said the number of confirmed cases at the long-term care facility in Saskatoon’s Varsity View neighbourhood has risen to 34 residents and four staff.

Olfert said in an emailed message that 23 staff are self-isolating. He admitted that staffing at the facility has become “strained.”

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  1. As of Nov. 21, a total of 14 long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and seniors residences were listed by the provincial government as active outbreaks.

    28 at Saskatoon care home test positive for COVID-19

  2. Saskatchewan blew past its former COVID-19 records as it reported 439 new cases and 93 people in hospital on Saturday.

    COVID-19: Sask. shatters daily record with 439 new cases Saturday

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