We know that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on long-term care homes. Today, the province formally requested resources from the federal government including personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. This support would be deployed to five priority long-term care homes, which have not been named yet. As well, local public health units have been ordered to develop a plan to test everyone in long-term care homes for COVID-19 noting that large numbers of staff have the disease without showing symptoms. You will find other provincial announcements below.
Apart from seniors, there are other vulnerable populations particularly in congregate living settings that are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Today I’d like to focus on the homeless population.
Experts on housing and health, like Dr. Steven Hwang from St. Michael’s Hospital and professor at the University of Toronto, believe that without immediate action, COVID-19 will spread through the homeless population like wildfire with devastating consequences. The prevalence of pre-existing health conditions, shared washroom facilities, the impossibility of physical distancing in the shelter systems, and hospitals discharging homeless individuals under investigation with no place for self-isolation all add up to an impending disaster for people experiencing homelessness.
So far, there have already been 14 outbreaks in homeless shelters in Toronto and the City has called for a provincial pandemic plan for shelters. My colleagues and I have joined advocates in urging all levels of government to move immediately to provide housing and widespread access to testing to avert an impending disaster. Simply put, housing will save lives and stop a potential second wave.
As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we must all reflect on the challenges others face and how the current situation makes life even harder for those already facing marginalization. This should be a time for us all to stand with each other in solidarity and work together towards something better than just “normal” when this is all over.
As always, wash your hands. Stay home (except if you must work). Be kind. We are all in this together.