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Second COVID-19 case confirmed in Vancouver homeless shelter
VANCOUVER -- A second COVID-19 case has been discovered at a shelter in the Downtown Eastside, CTV News has learned, prompting more fears the virus could spread in a vulnerable population.
Residents of the Salvation Army’s Harbour Light Mission told CTV News staff informed them that the shelter now has two cases, and management has asked residents of a floor of the building to isolate themselves.
The cases are prompting concern from residents of the neighbourhood, worried that they could be next in line.
“I think it is what it is,” said Carrie Lee, a vendor selling wares on Hastings Street. “But of course there’s a fear. And the more you think about it, the more the fear gets instilled.”
Despite the fear of the coronavirus, the streets of the Downtown Eastside are busy with people, tents and vendors.
A particularly packed stretch of Hastings Street is between Abbott and Carrall Streets, where vendors who used to sell at the city-sanctioned Downtown Eastside Market have returned.
The market was closed during the pandemic. But many of the things that closure has tried to avoid, including gatherings of people in close quarters, have largely resumed in the even smaller space along the sidewalk.
“I have to make some money for my food,” said Ray Trottier, who was selling DVDs. “I have to come here.”
The situation is unacceptable, said Constance Barnes, the director of the market. She raised $10,000 to buy masks, gloves and protective equipment for vendors selling in that environment.
But she said the simple solution is to reopen the market to give the vendors a place to stay where they could access hand washing facilities, toilets, and extra space.
“I have an alternative to what we are seeing on the street. We are in a position to make this work,” she said.
“There’s so much we could be doing and we have a humungous amount of space and all of these people outside the fence. To me that’s a waste,” she said.
As for the new cases, the Salvation Army didn’t answer questions about them, referring CTV News to Vancouver Coastal Health.
Vancouver Coastal Health said it wouldn’t confirm any cases unless health officials deemed there to be an outbreak or risk of transmission.