Thunder Bay

Isolation space, staffing needed to protect Thunder Bay vulnerable populations from COVID-19: mayor

Thunder Bay's mayor says there's a great deal of concern over the possibility of COVID-19 spreading among the city's most-vulnerable residents.

Thunder Bay declared state of emergency for health and social services on Tuesday

Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro declared a state of emergency for health and social services on Tuesday, out of concern that COVID-19 could spread through vulnerable populations in the city. (City of Thunder Bay)

Thunder Bay's mayor says there's a great deal of concern over the possibility of COVID-19 spreading among the city's most-vulnerable residents.

That was the impetus behind Mayor Bill Mauro's decision to declare a second state of emergency on Tuesday, this one specific to the city's health and social services sectors.

Mauro said if COVID-19 — outbreaks of which are currently ongoing at the Thunder Bay District Jail, and Thunder Bay Correctional Centre — were to take hold in shelters in Thunder Bay, it would be very difficult to support staff and residents with current resources.

Mauro noted that inmates at the jail and correctional centre could be released from custody while positive with the virus, and the Ministry of the Solicitor General told CBC News on Monday that release plans for inmates, which could include self-isolation support, are voluntary.

Some of those inmates may be homeless and could end up in a shelter in the city, Mauro said.

Mauro said the declaration of emergency is a proactive step, which would allow Thunder Bay to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 spreading in vulnerable populations, and includes requests for both funding and staffing from the province.

"We need to expand on isolation," Mauro said. "So, yes, we could use financial assistance to do that. But the bigger issue may in fact end up being, or may already be becoming, staffing, and the resources to staff the isolation shelter, and capacity."

In a media release, the city said the emergency declaration was made in consultation with the city's Emergency Response Team.

"With this particular population, there is very serious concern from the medical professionals, and from the sheltering community," Mauro said. "If there is going to be ... a serious growth in community spread, it would likely become known to us over the course of the next several days."

Thunder Bay previously declared a state of emergency in April 2020, which was also due to COVID-19. That state of emergency remains in effect.

However, the emergency declaration made Tuesday is specific to health and social services, and Mauro said it will create an easier pathway to securing provincial support for expanding isolation space in the city.

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