Winnipeg homelessness groups to hold emergency meeting about coronavirus

Groups that work with Winnipeg's most vulnerable people are holding an emergency meeting to plan how they’re going to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tentative plan is to transform cold weather group into COVID-19 group

Rick Lees, executive director of Main Street Project, says they have been planning for coronavirus in Winnipeg since it started making headlines weeks ago. (CBC)

Groups that work with Winnipeg's most vulnerable people are holding an emergency meeting Friday afternoon to plan how they're going to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The tentative plan right now is to transform a cold response committee to a COVID-19 outbreak committee, said Rick Lees, the executive director of Main Street Project.

"So that very same team, which is made up of my front-line people and the same people from other agencies, are going to meet today, and they'll sort of be the command group that will look at this the same way we've looked at cold weather response," he said. 

There are three presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, the provincial government said Thursday. 

The province also said 403 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in Manitoba as of March 11, up from 97 a week ago.

There were 500 more tests done on Wednesday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said. 

Main Street Project started planning for a coronavirus outbreak in Winnipeg as soon as it started making headlines around the world, because of the grave impact it could have on the city's most vulnerable people, Lees said. 

"They're mobile. They're transient. They're the ones that are most at risk because, you know, COVID-19 really preys on people that have co-presenting illness," he said. 

"For homeless folks, they have all kinds of other presenting health issues, so they're at great risk."

Part of the planning concerns precautions for staff and members of the public who want to help.

Lees said out of an abundance of caution, they have asked any staff who have travelled outside the country recently to self-quarantine for 14 days and get tested. 

While the Main Street Project doors remain open, they ask anyone who wants to take donations to the shelter to call ahead. 

"If someone's travelled already, for example, and then comes home from a trip and hops in the car and brings stuff to us, that might not be a good idea."

With files from Sam Samson