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Outbreak declared involving people experiencing homelessness in St. Thomas, Ont.

A COVID outbreak has been declared among a small group of people experiencing homelessness in St. Thomas, Ont.

The individuals infected are isolating in a former school in the city

A person experiencing homeless on a cold November morning. (Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC)

A COVID outbreak has been declared among a small group of people experiencing homelessness in St. Thomas, Ont. 

Southwestern Public Health has said there have been 10 likely or confirmed cases within the community. 

"We were able to put together that there was something going on in this population," said Elaine Reddick, a program manager with SWPH. 

She explained that in the last week or two, a cluster became apparent, where a group of people experiencing homelessness who tested positive either got shelter or food from the same locations, or knew they one another.

All 10 individuals are isolating at what was the Wellington Street Public School in the city, which is now a makeshift isolation centre. 

Reddick said people are separated into classrooms based on their needs with up to four people per room.

"The classrooms are all designated," she said. "Whether they're for people who are actual cases or if they're people who are contacts who have to isolate, or if they're people who are waiting for test results. So, that's all divided."

A 'very temporary situation'

According to Wendell Graves, the city manager of St. Thomas, prior to the outbreak they were using a small number of motel rooms in the city, but they "maxed out that resource." They don't intend to use the school forever. 

"It's our hope that it is a very temporary situation and that we get over the peak of the current outbreak that we have," he said. 

"The isolation period for individuals is ten days. And we're hoping now within, you know, 15 days or so that we'll have outrun the peak and we'll be able to reduce and pull back out of the Wellington street site."

Local hospitals, organizations and agencies have come together to support those affected by the outbreak, providing things like meals and health services. 

They will be isolating for 10 days.

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