Yellowknife's day shelter closes indefinitely due to COVID-19 outbreak

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The day shelter and overnight sobering centre in Yellowknife. Overnight operations will continue as usual.   (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC - image credit)
The day shelter and overnight sobering centre in Yellowknife. Overnight operations will continue as usual. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC - image credit)

The day shelter in downtown Yellowknife will be closed indefinitely as a result of a "significant" reduction in staffing due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the city, public health officials say.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority made the announcement Thursday night in a news release.

"There is no defined end date, services will return to normal when staffing improves and updates will be provided as they become available," the statement read.

Earlier this week, the territory's chief public health officer declared an outbreak among people who experience homelessness in Yellowknife.

In that update, Dr. Kami Kandola said since mid-August, 19 individuals who access shelters have contracted COVID-19, along with 10 health-care and shelter support workers.

The health authority said it would not provide specific details on "COVID impacted staff."

The day shelter operates in the combined day and sobering centre on 50th Street.

The health authority said operations at the overnight sobering shelter will continue as usual. Breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided there. Dinner will be available at the Salvation Army, along with basic services, including showers and access to bathrooms.

Daily meetings are ongoing between shelter operators and NGOs to co-ordinate services, the release said.

"This is a rapidly developing situation," it read.

"[Government of the Northwest Territories] departments are currently collaborating to address this urgent gap in service provision. More information will be provided when available."

Yellowknife and surrounding communities were placed under a 14-day public health order this week restricting gatherings.

The number of COVID-19 cases has steadily increased this week. As of Thursday night, there were 83 active cases in the city, 10 more than Wednesday.

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