Mobile coronavirus health team testing every homeless shelter in Halifax after case identified

All homeless shelters in Halifax and those in the province of Nova Scotia will be targeted for coronavirus testing, health officials say.

Officials announced last week that a test of a resident at a pop-up homeless shelter in Halifax came back positive last week and all residents and staff were forced to self-isolate.

To help track the spread of the virus and to keep the vulnerable homeless population safe, the North End Community Health Centre’s mobile outreach van has now been turned into a mobile coronavirus testing unit.

The mobile unit and health team are touring shelters in Halifax and testing all residents.

“Anything that we can do in our clinic upstairs we can do in this van,” said Marie-France LeBlanc, executive director of the North End Community Health Centre.

LeBlanc says the health-care team has a good rapport with the homeless population and the staff have received the technical training they need to deliver the COVID-19 mobile initiative.

“They are well trained and although it’s risky and they want to continue doing this for the community, we have always assisted,” said LeBlanc.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The risk of COVID-19 exposure in the homeless population is great, staff say.

All shelters are at capacity and keeping up with physical-distancing measures isn’t easy, so some shelters have moved clients into hotels, while pop-up shelters are being used to spread people out.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a lot of people living in close proximity together,” said Megan MacBride, a community social worker who is travelling with the health team delivering the coronavirus testing.

“It’s so important that we are doing the testing now,” said MacBride. “And we are testing everyone, just so that we can keep a really close eye on things.”

More than 150 tests have been completed so far.

The mobile outreach street team is expanding its testing into communities where clusters of COVID-19 have been identified and will continue to go where it is asked to test those populations, says LeBlanc.

“We are really taking direction from public health and public health felt really strongly that it was time to test the shelter community and the homeless community and that’s what we did,” said LeBlanc.

“And I think just like every other community in the province, it’s important that everybody who needs to get tested gets tested.”

Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said providing mobile testing is part of the greater strategy to track and identify the spread of the coronavirus, while random testing in the community is something being examined to further monitor the spread.

“We could also just take a community or large workplace and say we are going to test everybody,” said Strang. “Not so much to detect whether individuals have the disease, but that would help answer, say, if 15 or 20 percent of people in a big workplace test positive, that tells us something about the level of community spread.”

The province’s state of emergency for COVID-19 is set to expire Sunday but the province holds the ability to extend it.

Source: Read Full Article