The Whitehorse emergency shelter will still be accepting overnight clients during the COVID-19 pandemic but will be trying to follow the rule of only have 50 people in the building. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse shelter and Yukon long-term care homes preparing for COVID-19

Whitehorse shelter will continue to accept clients but limit number of people in the building to 50

The Whitehorse shelter will still be accepting overnight clients during the COVID-19 pandemic but will be trying to follow the rule of only having 50 people in the building.

Patricia Living, a spokesperson with the Department of Health and Social Services, told the News management will be building on protocols already in place at the shelter, and other at facilities like long-term care homes..

“This includes introducing a number of measures that address the isolation of affected clients if required,” Living said.

The shelter will have to deal with cases, should they arise, provide support and give medical attention. Health and Social Services is working closely with the Yukon Communicable Disease Control and Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer of health, she said, on figuring out changes to things like meal distribution.

The shelter serves several meals a day and would be typically serving more than 50 people during the average meal time.

“We’re looking at how can we best continue to provide the services and feed the people but do it in such a way that offers the greatest protection possible,” Living said.

She said the shelter will have to look at its drop-in services too, which include people coming to the shelter to see EMS or a counsellor.

Another challenge is how many overnight guests the shelter accepts and how close people sleep to each other. There will need to be protocols to isolate any overnight clients who have COVID-19 or are suspected of having it.

Living said the shelter has 20 suites. Anyone testing positive for the illness can be put into one of those suites.

The shelter has 25 shelter beds currently, so she said she doesn’t expect that anyone would be turned away for the night.

She said shelter staff will have to meet and discuss how to meet the 50-people guideline. She added that there will be a bit of learning curve to this as no one has gone through these circumstances before.

Meanwhile, all Yukon long-term care facilities will be closed to volunteers and visitors. The only exception will be for visitors whose family members are at the end of life.

“No exceptions,” she said.

She said these facilities are in a good position to deal with the situation, considering they are already a type of care facility. Plans are already in place to deal with outbreaks — typically, the flu or gastrointestinal issues.

“They (staff) know the appropriate protocols if someone is ill,” Living said.

She added that patients already have private rooms and bathrooms. This should help, in the event that any residents come down with the illness.

She explained the hope remains to prevent COVID-19 from getting into these facilities. It is about preparing for it, bending the curve and preventing a community spread, she said.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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