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St. Paul women's shelter staff member tests positive for COVID-19

"We're still a safe place."

ST. PAUL - The Capella Centre Women's Shelter in St. Paul has confirmed that one of its part-time staff members has tested positive for COVID-19.

"It is important to note that her symptoms did not develop until after her last shift at the shelter," said Noreen Cotton, executive director of the women's shelter.

The part-time staff member immediately contacted 811 to report her symptoms and was tested right away, said Cotton. Her test results came back very quickly, and the employee is self-isolating and has been doing so since the onset of her symptoms.
"The situation is considered contained. Anyone who was in contact with her is also isolating, even though they do not have symptoms," explained Cotton. She also added that anyone who was in contact with the employee is also being tested for the virus, out of precaution.
The executive director said she would like to commend Alberta Health Services for its quick response and support in containing and helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and helping the shelter itself stay COVID-free.
"We're still a safe place," said Cotton.
The Capella Centre Women's Shelter is an essential service, and the facility has adopted stringent prevention protocol to align with public health requirements. Physical distancing measures, hand washing, constantly disinfecting surfaces, providing protective personal equipment (PPE) for staff and clients whenever needed, and providing isolation spaces for those with symptoms are among the protocols in place.
"The safety of women, children and seniors facing abuse, as well as the safety of shelter workers are our top priorities," said Cotton. "Women's shelters remain the safest pace for a woman fleeing violence. We are adapting our services so we can continue to meet the safety needs of all individuals seeking our services."
Cotton noted that it's a known fact that in times of natural disasters, increased anxiety and external stressors can increase and worsen domestic violence situations.
"It is important for everyone to know they can reach out to us, anytime. We are always open and here for you."
Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications with Alberta Health, said the province does not comment on specific cases unless there is an outbreak or a risk to the general public.
However, he did state, "In cases like this . . . as soon as a test is positive, local health officials take immediate action to protect the health of everyone involved and prevent the virus from spreading. They immediately isolate the individual and begin contact tracing to determine anyone who may have been exposed to the virus. Anyone at risk of being exposed is directly contacted by AHS and required to self-isolate. Anyone who has not been contacted is not at risk."
As of Sunday's daily update, there were a total of 185 cases of COVID-19 in the North Zone, with only one active case showing on the map for the St. Paul area. A total of 4,480 cases had been confirmed in the province, as of the April 26 update. A total of 73 deaths have occurred in Alberta, attributed to COVID-19.
The St. Paul Journal did reach out to Alberta Health to confirm if the one case showing on the map was still the only case in the region, but did not get a response as of Monday at noon.
In the region, the Bonnyville area had recorded seven cases, but all are now considered recovered. Cold Lake has four cases, with two being recovered. The Athabasca area has two active cases, and the Westlock area has two cases, with one being recovered. The Wood Buffalo area had two confirmed cases, and both were considered recovered. Smoky Lake, Two Hills, Lac La Biche, and the Wabasca area had no confirmed cases.
Farther south, the Vemilion area had three cases but only one was active, and the Vegreville area had two cases, both were recovered.
A 24-hour Family Violence Information Line is available at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages. Mental health supports are also available. The Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 and the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2322 are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The most important measure Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, continues to be practising good hygiene.
On Sunday, the Government of Alberta affirmed its support of a variety of organizations that support vulnerable Albertans.

A variety of efforts are being made to support vulnerable and at-risk Albertans feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government is prioritizing support for those who need it most, including people with disabilities, people accessing income support programs, homeless and women’s shelters, and civil society organizations that support Albertans, including food banks.

“Our government is committed to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting vulnerable Albertans. Those who rely on social services need our support more than ever before and we will continue working closely with community partners to address the needs of all who are at risk and help them get through this challenging time," said Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services.

The province says it has received 850 applications from across the province for the $30 million in funding for charities, not-for-profits and civil society organizations. These applications are being reviewed and urgent requests are being prioritized to deliver the most effective support.

The Government of Alberta also provided $5 million to help food banks and charities provide Albertans with food during this crisis. This funding helps ensure safe food distribution to Alberta’s food banks and will assist with efforts to respond to COVID-19.

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Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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