Saskatoon

Food bank services paused in Saskatoon due to COVID-19 outbreak

The food bank said in a release that it has taken immediate safety measures including increased cleaning and widespread staff testing.

Outbreak declared after three staff test positive for the virus

The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre is closed on Monday as the organization responds to a COVID-19 outbreak being declared there. (Don Somers/CBC)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has declared an outbreak at the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre after three staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Emergency food hamper services are also temporarily paused on Monday.

Executive director Laurie O'Connor said the food bank decided to close its doors because there are a number of staff at home isolating. She said almost all of the staff have now been tested since the first positive case cropped up.

"As we found out about the first positive case, we encouraged staff to go and get tested," O'Connor said. "Then when we found out about the second positive case, we strongly encouraged the rest of the staff, including myself, to go and have a test."

She said there are about 35 to 40 staff members in the building on any given day.

The food bank said in a release that it has taken immediate safety measures including increased cleaning.

"We will invite the public health inspector back in this week to walk through and make sure that we're doing everything we can to keep folks safe," O'Connor said.

O'Connor says she hopes the food bank can open Tuesday but she can’t be certain. The food bank will be providing updates. (Don Somers/CBC)

This is the second time the food bank has closed its doors due to a COVID-19 outbreak. When the food bank dealt with an outbreak in November, the emergency food hamper program was closed for a week.

Before the outbreak in November, O'Connor said staff were wearing cloth masks, but since then staff have been required to wear medical masks.

Some of the cleaning protocols they have in place are wiping high-touch surface areas every 15 minutes, hourly safety reminders and requiring anyone who enters the building to wear a mask.

O'Connor said 100 to 150 people use the food bank every day, sometimes more.

"The community members who need that program are definitely being impacted and that would cause a lot of anxiety."

She said she hopes the food bank can open Tuesday but she can't be certain.

The food bank is in communication with the health authority and will provide updates.

(CBC News Graphics)

CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.

With files from Charles Le Bourgeois

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