Thompson YWCA COVID-19 Outbreak Update – Contingency Plan in Effect – What’s Open and What’s Not

This press release has been prepared by the YWCA. We are distributing it on their behalf at their request.

(Thompson MB – Oct 16, 2020) A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared and remains in effect at the YWCA in Thompson in an effort to stop any further spread of the virus at the facility. The public heath investigation has identified that the risk to short-term stay residents is low, however, out of an abundance of caution, public health has recommended self monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms to anyone who stayed at the YWCA between October 4 – 14, 2020.

“We thank the public and our partners for their outpouring of support during this challenging time,” Executive Director Kim Hickes said. “The outbreak is contained on the third floor and it’s important for the public to know that we are maintaining our operations in the rest of the building as best we can.”

The Y’s Shelter in Place Program (SHIPP) operates from the third floor. The program is self-contained on the third floor of the YWCA: program participants access the building through the separate entrance, and interactions with staff and clients outside of this program are extremely limited. Visitor access has been restricted as a result.

The SHIPP initiative was developed earlier this year to address concerns over COVID-19 and Thompson’s homeless residents.

Public Health staff from the Northern Health Region are conducting contact tracing and are supervising the staff and clients currently in isolation.

“We really need a community effort to support the Y and its operations as they work with health officials to contain and address this outbreak,” YWCA Board President Charlene Lafreniere said. “Kindness and understanding go a long way at a time like this and we know if we work together as Northerners, we can beat this.”

Media Contact:
Kim Hickes, Executive Director YWCA
(204) 679-7069

Background information on the SHIPP initiative can be found here: https://northernernews.ca/2020/04/18/ywca-first-wave-homeless-pandemic

Making Masks Work For You

Masks are an important part of slowing the spread of COVID-19. We’ve known for some time that masks stop the immediate spread of particles created by breathing, coughing, or sneezing, and the US CDC recently updated it’s webpage to acknowledge that respiratory particles may remain in the air longer than a few minutes.

Though masks may offer you limited protection, their primary purpose is to keep other people safe. That means that the more people who wear masks, the more effective masks are at stopping the spread of the disease.

What makes a good non-medical mask?

The best materials for non-medical masks include at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric. They should provide a relatively snug fit over your mouth and nose, and ideally under your chin to catch the most droplets.

You can test how effective your mask is with a candle or a lighter. A good mask should make it difficult to blow out the lighter.

How do I make the most of my mask?

Health Canada offers these guidelines for wearing and handling non-medical masks:

  • Wear your mask over your mouth and nose.
  • Inspect your mask for rips and holes regularly.
  • Handle your mask by the ear loops, and avoid touching the surface with unclean hands.
  • Wash your re-usable mask in warm, soapy water regularly.
  • Keep a paper bag or ziploc handy to store your mask when not in use.
  • Don’t wear your mask loosely.
  • Don’t remove your mask to talk to someone.
  • Don’t share your mask
  • Don’t leave your mask hanging off of an ear or your neck.

I have a hard time wearing a mask. What can I do?

Breathe through your nose. We often instinctively breathe through our mouths when something is put over our face. However, this is a fight-or-flight response, and can lead to feelings of panic and anxiety. Try to consciously remember to breathe through your nose. It will smell a lot better, too.

You may need a different mask. Try a variety of cuts and materials that still meet the basic requirements for a mask. The best masks are light and resist moisture build-up inside.

You can also buy a plastic bracket that creates a bit of room between your mouth, making even the most uncomfortable masks a bit easier to breathe in. Check out a few options in this article: 7 Face Brackets To Make Your Mask More Comfortable!

If your glasses fog up a lot while wearing a mask, try anti-fog wipes like these ones from Smith Optics. They use a hydrophobic coating to stop glasses from fogging up once applied. They work great, and they’re especially handy in the winter, pandemic or not!

Neckwarmers may not be enough.

Research-wise, the jury is out whether neckwarmers are an effective mask. It will also be up to businesses and service providers to decide whether they will allow neckwarmers to substitute for masks during the winter.

The safest bet is to carry a dedicated mask to use indoors!

Masks are just one part of staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember to distance yourself physically, avoid travel if possible, and stay home if you’re sick. Check out our basic guidelines article for more information!

Read more about non-medical masks at this link from Health Canada: Safely Using A Non-Medical Mask

Basic Guidelines For Staying Safe During COVID-19.

COVID-19 has officially been identified in Thompson for the first time since the spring, so its important we all take basic pandemic precautions seriously.

Please remember the basic rules and guidelines that have been in place since March. Don’t wait until the numbers start climbing: following these guidelines now helps ensure that local cases remain isolated and do not spread.

  • Stay home when you’re sick. If you can work from home, great! If you can’t, be sure to speak with your employer about your options around time off due to illness.
  • Space yourselves out. Two meters/six feet is the standard distance, however this is only a guideline. The more distance you give people, the better.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. At the very least, clean your hands before entering a public place, and after you get home.
  • Wear a mask. The best fabrics for non-medical masks are at least two layers of cotton, polypropylene, or some combination of the two. When you’re not wearing a mask, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Learn more at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-safely-use-non-medical-mask-face-covering.html
  • Limit your shopping trips, and the number of shoppers. Make a list of what you need, and send only one person at a time to run errands. This limits your exposure and gives everyone room to breathe. Follow all precautions put in place by stores and service providers.
  • Show compassion. Not everyone catches COVID-19 because they were irresponsible. In the meantime, there are practical difficulties to self-isolating for a lot of people. Find out how you can lend a helping hand at https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/updates/prepareandprevent.htm

To avoid more drastic closures and public health orders, its important that we all do our part to ensure COVID-19 spreads as slowly as possible. It’s never been easier to save a life!

Positive Case of COVID-19 Identified in Thompson

Provincial Public Health officials have confirmed a case of COVID-19 in the Thompson/Mystery Lake District of the Northern Health Region.

Public Health nurses and staff are already conducting extensive contact tracing and monitoring, and the City of Thompson is working closely with the Northern Health Region and community partners to help contain this event.

Mayor and Council would like to remind residents to continue to practice the fundamentals to keep COVID-19 at bay in the North:

  • Stay home when you feel sick;
  • Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Cover your cough or sneeze;
  • Follow all precautions implemented by local businesses;
  • Maintain physical (social) distancing, and wear a mask when in group settings;
  • Limit errand runs and groceries to one person, if possible.

“No one should be surprised or caught off-guard by this announcement: we knew this day was coming. That’s why it’s important that we follow precautions and public health orders properly,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “This positive case does not need to turn into an outbreak, but we need to start taking this virus seriously.”

All municipalities in Manitoba have been advised to refer to and publish case information as it is publicly released by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer and the Province of Manitoba to ensure information is accurate and consistent. The City of Thompson will provide updates as the situation progresses, in due collaboration with provincial authorities.

If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, we encourage residents to use the Manitoba Shared Health self-screening tool prior to reporting to a testing location.

Download the COVID-19 Alert app from Health Canada to find out if you have been in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. The More people who use the app, the more effective it will be.

Visit www.manitoba.ca/covid19 for accurate information about COVID19 in Manitoba.

Recreation During COVID-19

While the TRCC is closed, our team at Recreation, Parks, and Culture have been busy using the opportunity to meticulously clean and and maintain the TRCC and our other facilities. Recreation and fitness facilities are not due to re-open for a long time yet, but our aim is to ensure that when we do re-open, our residents feel safe and confident that the facility is ready for use.

Alternate Duties

Staff from Recreation have been working at City Hall and at the Public Works building to help ramp up our sanitation practices indoors.

During the winter, our maintenance team helped supplement snow clearing efforts around town (particularly sidewalks), and as the snow melts, they’re helping Public Works speed up their pothole repairs around town. They’ve also continued to clear the Millennium Trail and the Dog Park to help residents ensure they have a safe outdoor space to have fun while giving each other plenty of room.

TRCC Cleaning and Maintenance

Our staff at the TRCC have been busy taking advantage of the shut-down to polish up the building!

CA Nesbitt and Gordon Beard Arenas

  • Removed ice from the arenas and washed concrete floors;
  • Swept and pressure-washed bleachers;
  • Painted the walls of the CA Nesbitt Main Area;
  • Painted yellow visibility stripes on the CA Nesbitt stairs;
  • Repaired the doors to the CA Nesbitt Arena;
  • Cleaned the Gordon Beard arena boards;
  • Cleaned dressing rooms and disinfected the showers;
  • Replaced benches in Dressing Room 5 with Composite Wood;
  • Scrubbed scuffs and black marks from the dressing room hallways;
Fresh paint on the CA Nesbitt walls…
…The Gordon Beard player’s boxes…
…and the CA Nesbitt stairs!

Bill Comaskey Wellness Center/Fitness Area

  • Deep cleaned and re-arranged equipment in the fitness area;
  • Added three new machines to the fitness area;
  • Cleaned all the light fixtures and ducting;
  • Replaced all burnt out lights;
  • Cleaned all of the windows;
  • Removed tape, gum, and black marks from the Wellness Center floor
One of our more unique additions: the Krankcycle. It’s like a stationary bike for your arms.
A shiny new elliptical.
The S-Force acceleration trainer.

Play Area

Our maintenance team will be cleaning the play area over the next 1-2 weeks, including equipment, floors, walls, ducts, and vents.

There’s an awful lot to scrub down in the play area.

TRCC (In General)

  • Refurbished merchandise display in the TRCC;
  • Steam cleaned all bathrooms and change rooms;
  • Cleaned and buffed the lobby and hallway floors with three coats of wax;
  • Scrubbed and steam-cleaned the entrance floor, and deep-cleaned the carpets;
  • Repaired the grouting in the main entrance;
  • Cleaned and disinfected all garbage cans;
  • Cleaned and disinfected front reception area;
  • Cleaned the front office gate;
  • Cleaned the carpet in the Mary Fenske Board Room;
  • Deep-cleaned our storage areas;
  • Repaired many walls in preparation for painting;
Making those floors shine!
Grout and tile repair in the washrooms.
Thoroughly cleaning those porous surfaces.
We’re really getting into those nooks and crannies in the bathroom.
We’re getting reorganized…
…improving our workflow…
…and really focusing on the details.

We’ve also cleaned up the Southwood and Juniper warm-up shacks to ensure they’re ready for next winter!

Southwood Skating Rink Warm-up Shack
Juniper Skating Rink Warm-up Shack

Re-opening recreation and fitness facilities is part of the Province of Manitoba’s Phase 3 plan, and it’s going to be a while before we reach that point.

In the meantime, our staff are keeping busy, and we’re excited for the day we get to welcome everyone back inside!

If you’re going stir-crazy at home, check out Thompson Rec at Home on Facebook, where our Special Events Coordinator is curating cute and fun activities to keep you and your family busy throughout the week! You can also follow along right here, where we’ll be posting new activities every Wednesday!

YWCA Houses First Round of Homeless Residents During Pandemic

Edit: 25 residents are being housed in the dormitories, rather than 21 as previously reported.

With support of the City of Thompson, the Thompson Homeless Shelter, and Thompson’s Community Advisory Board on Homelessness, 25 regular users of the Thompson Homeless Shelter (THS) have been relocated to the YWCA’s dormitories to aid with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic as of this morning. The individuals were selected based on their elevated risk, including factors like age, medical conditions, and more.

The YWCA has designated an area of the facility specifically for shelter users, and they have been screened for temperature and recent history on arrival. The YWCA is providing food, and those staying at the facility encouraged to remain near the building for the duration of the Province’s current Public Health Orders. The facility is staffed with additional security 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants are permitted on site.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak has also donated hygiene hampers for the homeless residents being housed at the YWCA, including supplies like soap, shampoo, and a change of clothes.

The YWCA housing is being funded entirely through the $2.2 billion federal Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy. As part of the strategy, the federal government announced in May 2019 that it would be providing Thompson with $1.74 million in funding over 5 years (2019-2024) to support homelessness initiatives like the Thompson Homeless Shelter. This year, the City received an additional $200, 000 to support COVID-19 safety among Thompson’s homeless residents.

The Work Isn’t Over

52 individuals are still relying on the existing Thompson Homeless Shelter for a place to sleep every night, not including individuals who have homes in outlying communities but are stranded in Thompson.

After investigating the Polaris #6 building, which has been disused for 2 years, inspectors determined that the building would need more extensive repairs than previously expected before it would be suitable as emergency housing.

the Polaris #6 building was initially investigated as an emergency shelter, but would require more upgrades than expected to meet basic requirements.

The City of Thompson, the Thompson Homeless Shelter, and the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness, are still investigating other possible options for pandemic-safe housing. Both the Keewatin Tribal Council and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak have also applied for additional COVID-19 specific funding to support projects for vulnerable people in the north.

In the meantime, the RCMP’s Community Relations Unit and the City of Thompson’s CSOs continue to patrol Thompson’s downtown to help make Thompson’s homeless and at-risk residents more aware of COVID-19 and the risks it presents to their community.

RCMP Community Relations Officers + City of Thompson Community Safety Officers