There have now been 29 people who have tested positive for a variant of concern at a city-funded shelter run by the Salvation Army downtown and more than 100 people are now isolating there.
A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Maxwell Meighan shelter for those experiencing homelessness, located near Queen and Sherbourne streets in Moss Park, on Feb. 3.
On Feb. 13, Toronto Public Health said one of the cases at the shelter had tested positive for a variant of concern, the first confirmed variant case in Toronto’s shelter system.
Some of the spaces at the shelter are in a congregate setting and the city said Monday that all clients who were living at the shelter during the period of possible exposure are now considered close contacts.
Maxwell Meighan is one of the sites that makes up the city’s base shelter system. It normally has space for 363 male clients experiencing homelessness, but that capacity has been reduced to 256 due to the need for physical distancing. There are currently 121 clients staying at the site.
“The shelter is currently closed to new admissions, and Salvation Army is working with TPH to ensure remaining clients safely isolate in place,” the city said in its release. “The Salvation Army will continue to conduct enhanced daily symptom screening of all staff and clients.”
Toronto Public Health has also advised that all staff and clients undergo ongoing testing every three to five days and that anyone who shows symptoms or tests positive be moved to an isolation/recovery site.
The lab samples are currently undergoing whole genome sequencing by Public Health Ontario to identify which variant strain they are.
Ontario has seen a rising prevalence of the more contagious UK variant (B.1.1.7) in the province and public health officials have warned that it could soon become the dominant strain of COVID-19 here. A smaller number of cases of the South African variant and at least one case of the Brazilian variant have also been detected in the province so far.