2 new cases of COVID-19 at Siloam Mission in Winnipeg

The mission was notified Wednesday that a client and a staff member had tested positive, a spokesperson said Thursday. The cases currently don't appear to be linked.

Client, staff member were both at mission on Tuesday, spokesperson says; no close contacts at mission so far

No other community or staff members at Siloam Mission have been linked as close contacts to the two individuals who tested positive, said Kathi Neal, director of development for Siloam. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

A client and a staff member at Siloam Mission in Winnipeg have tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

The organization was notified on Wednesday that the two individuals had tested positive, said Kathi Neal, director of development for the organization, which works with people who are homeless in the city.

Both individuals were most recently at Siloam Mission on Tuesday, Neal said, but have not been linked as close contacts to anyone else at the mission. Currently, the two cases do not appear to be linked to each other.

"Thankfully, in both cases, neither person had had a close contact with anyone at Siloam," Neal said. "And that really is because we've been following these very strict protocols."

The mission, which includes an overnight shelter and drop-in services, has brought in stringent pandemic safety measures, including screening processes, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and mask use.

The client who tested positive was asymptomatic when last at Siloam, Neal said Thursday, although she couldn't say for certain if that was the case for the staff member.

She declined to specify whether the client was an overnight guest, or if the staff member worked with clients, in the interest of protecting their privacy.

Protocols in place to keep clients safe: mission

The mission's shelter currently has capacity for up to 95 people per night, Neal said, compared to its pre-pandemic limit of 143. That group is considered a cohort, and individuals who are not part of the cohort can access bagged meals outside the mission.

The organization has had three cases of COVID-19 in total since the pandemic began. One staff member tested positive in September, Neal said, and has since recovered. At the time, one other staff member at the mission was deemed a close contact, but that individual did not test positive.

While rising case counts in Manitoba and the two recent cases at the mission have led to natural anxiety among Siloam's clients, Neal said it's essential to communicate to them that accessing services is not unsafe.

"We do have very, very stringent protocols in place that we're following — for example, the social distancing in the shelter and the screening process," she said.

"We do have community members who come to us … every night looking for a bed. We screen them very carefully for COVID-19.

"And that doesn't mean that we can provide a bed — but if we can't, we really work hard with our shelter partners and we do locate for a bed for them."

The mission has put out a call online for donations of reusable masks, which Neal said are regularly distributed to community members. Neal added the mission is grateful for all the help received thus far in the pandemic.

"Thanks to our donors, we've been able to continue to feed the rest of our community through our doors, through bagged meals," she said. "We are very, very grateful to the community."