Labour Ministry launches investigation days after COVID-19 outbreak declared at London shelter

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development says an order was issued to Mission Services of London after a field visit at Men’s Mission on Tuesday and an investigation is ongoing.

Kalem McSween tells Global News that because the investigation is ongoing, no details pertaining to the order will be released at this time.

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The investigation comes just days after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Men’s Mission, part of Mission Services of London, at 459 York St.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit said it was notified of the first case involving a resident at the facility on Dec. 17, 2020 and declared an outbreak after being notified of five additional cases associated with the Men’s Mission within the last week.

By Saturday, at least nine people, including five staff members and four clients, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Peter Rozeluk, executive director of Mission Services of London, told Global News on Tuesday evening that the ministry “conducted a workplace inspection to determine compliance with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and related legislation as local media reported an outbreak at the workplace.”

“One order was issued in regards to disinfecting a couple of items within the facility more frequently. Specifically, carts used to move goods and a spreader used to spread ice melter were not being regularly cleaned and disinfected between uses,” he said.

“As required, a copy of the report and completed notice of compliance will be posted in the workplace where they can be seen by employees.”

Rozeluk says Mission Services is “glad to have been given this direction so we can continue to do our best to protect the safety of employees and participants.”

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In an interview with Global News earlier in the day, Rozeluk also said that the case count related to the outbreak remains unchanged as of Tuesday.

“The first thing to note is that we’re not closed down. We’re not locked down. Men’s Mission is still operating, still functioning as an emergency shelter and still providing services to the homeless,” Rozeluk said in an interview on Let’s Talk London with Jess Brady on Tuesday.

Rozeluk says the Men’s Mission outbreak is the first in the emergency shelter system in London since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

“It’s unfortunate. But what I have said before and for the past year is, I just marvel that we haven’t had an outbreak before,” he said.

“I think that’s a testament to the work that’s being done in all of the homeless prevention network agencies in town.”

Dustin Carter with the Middlesex-London Paramedic Service tweeted on Tuesday morning that community paramedics were on location to complete the swabbing of all residents and staff, which Rozeluk confirmed.

“From my perspective, testing is good because that provides us with an awful lot more evidence as to how widespread COVID is in the community and how it’s being transmitted,” Rozeluk said.

“The good thing, too, from the information that we received from the health unit was that there was no evidence that there’s widespread transmission within the shelter.”

MLHU associate medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers said at the time of the outbreak declaration that the health unit’s team “is working closely with Mission Services to implement outbreak measures in order to reduce the potential for any further spread.”

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Rozeluk told Global News on Tuesday that Mission Services of London already had pandemic-related health and safety measures in place.

“For several months now staff going in, and indeed staff across Mission Services of London, are all being screened daily. I’ve got an app on my phone that I’m supposed to dutifully fill out every morning to screen myself and all staff are supposed to be doing that. We screen participants at least once a day,” he said.

“We’re hoping to do that twice a day but screening, that process is time-consuming and sometimes you don’t get everybody twice a day.

“We had two meal sittings at Men’s Mission — that’s been increased to four now. We distanced the dining room tables, I mean, they’re six feet apart, there’s only one person that’s allowed at a table. One of the suggestions that the health unit had made as well is just encourage participants there to keep their masks on while they’re walking through the dining room and take them off when you’re eating.”

— with files from Global News’ Sawyer Bogdan.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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