Salvation Army shelter moved too slowly to prevent COVID-19 outbreak: source
MONTREAL -- Several cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the Salvation Army's downtown Montreal Booth Centre.
On Friday, two more residents were diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number of cases at the centre to six.
A source close to the city's homeless services told CTV News the organization was slow to act.
However, Salvation Army spokesperson Brigitte St-Germain said that as early as March 15, the Booth Centre implemented protective measures as directed by local health authorities, including "prohibiting new residents and visitors from entering the facility, cancelling all group activities, educating staff and residents on how they can protect themselves and others, implementing deep cleaning and sanitization practices, and ensuring, to the best of our ability, that residents were practicing social distancing."
Those measures grew increasingly restrictive, St-Germain added, noting that the Booth Centre on March 25 set up a dedicated space in the building for residents showing symptoms to self-isolate, and that as of April 1, residents were only allowed to leave for essential trips outside.
By April 7, the date on which the centre had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19, all residents were ordered to stay inside the centre "due to some lack of compliance with social distancing measures," St-Germain said.
While St-Germain acknowledged there were delays in taking the most stringent precautionary measures, she said the shelter followed the rules set out by the public health authority.
“They always said we were doing everything okay,” she said.
The decision to take steps such as barring residents from visiting other floors of the building and closing the cafeteria came a week after the provincial government placed restrictions on long-term care facilities with outbreaks and after most shelters had implement strict controls.
The regional health authority said it is working with the Salvation Army to ensure proper steps are taken at the Booth Centre, which is home 130 residents. Some residents have been sent to the old Royal Victoria Hospital site due to a shortage of staff at the centre during the outbreak.
“The problem is the employees are afraid to come to work because of it,” said St-Germain. “For a few days, maybe up to a week, we had to work at 60 per cent of our staff.”
She added that the centre is actively recruiting more staff and volunteers and that meals are now being served on residents' floors and not in communal areas.
An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that the Booth Centre had not put any physical distancing measures in place prior to April 7.