COVID-19 outbreak declared at Windsor's Downtown Mission

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Windsor's Downtown Mission Thursday. 

17 total cases have been confirmed

Windsor's Downtown Mission declared a COVID-19 outbreak Thursday. (File Photo)

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Windsor's Downtown Mission. 

The shelter's executive director Ron Dunn told CBC News Thursday that there are 17 total positive cases — 11 are staff and six are guests. As of Thursday evening, Dunn said they have tested about 64 people and are still waiting on about 40 test results. 

This is the first outbreak declared at the Mission since the start of the pandemic. It is the second homeless shelter to experience an outbreak, with The Salvation Army Centre of Hope entering outbreak mode at the end of December. 

"We've been saying all along that we felt it was —  despite our best effort —  inevitable," Dunn said.

"We've increased cleaning protocols, we've been screening of course and everyone is getting their temperature taken on the way in so we've been very diligent, but we still have 150 people a day or so in and out of the building." 

Since the start of COVID-19, Dunn's organization has continued to support a vast majority of those experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex through its meal and shelter programs. 

To date, the facility had managed to stay COVID-free but on Wednesday, Dunn said two guests tested positive.

And after that, the numbers just kept rising. 

As a result, Dunn said the organization has stopped any programs that don't deal with food or shelter, including its counselling services, income tax clinic and hair salon. It has also stopped accepting food and clothing donations. 

He said they ask that community members who would often drop by just to visit, should stay at home, unless they require a takeout meal. 

Rev. Ron Dunn is the executive director of the Downtown Mission. He says staff are doing OK and they will continue to keep moving forward. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

'The show must go on and it will'

All of this is to contain the spread of the disease but also prevent any further strain on staff, Dunn said. 

The Mission has already started to re-shuffle its workers and has even called in some who were on vacation. 

Out of nine security guards, only two are currently able to work, which has prompted the city to offer Dunn a third-party company to help out for the next few weeks. Other community organizations, including Essex-Windsor EMS, have offered to provide staff if needed. 

But Dunn said they are going to see what the test results look like and then decide whether to rely on external supports. 

"We're going to adjust and move forward and as I've said before ... the show must go on and it will. These are folks who depend on us for a place to live and shelter in place and all those things. We're their family and they're ours, we got to keep doing what we gotta do," he said. 

At this time, he said there's no concern that the outbreak has spread to other homeless facilities in the city, despite the movement of people from one location to another. Dunn said he's in close contact with the other shelters and they have a good understanding of the people who have been coming and going. 

As for himself, Dunn said he has tested negative and will continue to work around the clock for the people he services. 

"We're doing OK, I'm doing OK," he said. "We work here out of love right, so you just keep going, you just keep doing it. I'm sure at the end I'll be tired and maybe a little worse for wear, [but] it's all for the right reason, for the right people." 


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