British Columbia

Salvation Army confirms case of COVID-19 on Downtown Eastside

The Salvation Army has confirmed a case of COVID-19 in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. A client at the Harbour Light transitional home and addictions treatment centre tested positive on the weekend.

A single case was confirmed on the weekend at the Vancouver Harbour Light facility

A man washes his hands outside The Salvation Army Harbour Light Centre on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. A client at the centre tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In a troubling development for a neighbourhood with one of the country's most vulnerable populations, a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Salvation Army, which operates the Harbour Light transitional home and addiction treatment centre, said one of its clients tested positive on the weekend.

Mike Leland, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army in B.C., wasn't able to share any information about how the person at the facility contracted the virus or the severity of their symptoms, but he said significant measures have been put in place to prevent the virus's spread.

On Wednesday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, highlighting the other public health crisis in the city, overdoses, said there were no confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 on the Downtown Eastside.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has used the term "outbreak," to describe even single cases in long-term care facilities, but it's not clear whether that language would apply to a centre like Harbour Light.

Leland said Vancouver Coastal Health staff have been at the centre since the case was confirmed, doing an education session with clients and staff and rigorous daily cleaning that's set to last 14 days.

There's also continued monitoring and testing of staff and clients.

"We're really working diligently to make sure this thing does not explode on the Downtown Eastside, and so far, so good," said Leland.

A Salvation Army spokesperson said 19 COVID-19 tests from staff and clients at Harbour Light Centre in Vancouver have come back negative, with five more pending. One person tested positive over the weekend. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

He said testing has been carried out at Harbour Light and results for 19 clients and staff have come back negative, with five additional test results pending.

"Obviously, the Downtown Eastside, we're dealing with our population's most vulnerable citizens," said Leland. "We're super cognizant of the health of the people in and around our facility, so we just continue to strictly enforce social distancing."

Leland said the person who has COVID-19 was isolated in part of the building at 119 East Cordova St., before being moved offsite by health officials.

He said there have not been any other confirmed cases at any Salvation Army facilities in the province.


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Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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