A 2019 photo of the site of what is now The Cove Shelter, which is operated by Surrey Urban Mission Society. Crews were working inside of this corner unit just days before it officially opened. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

A 2019 photo of the site of what is now The Cove Shelter, which is operated by Surrey Urban Mission Society. Crews were working inside of this corner unit just days before it officially opened. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Surrey shelter as 17 people test positive

SUMS executive director says ‘it’s a group that we really have to work hard to protect’

Fraser Health has declared an outbreak at The Cove Shelter in Whalley.

According to an information bulletin Wednesday (Dec. 2), there has been 17 people, who “recently worked at or accessed site services,” that have tested positive for COVID-19.

Fraser Health adds that as a precaution, no new clients are being admitted at this time.

The Cove Shelter is operated by Surrey Urban Mission Society.

Mike Musgrove, the executive director of SUMS, said Thursday that “Everyone’s healthy. They’re doing OK. No one’s been hospitalized. They haven’t received any medical treatment.

“No one’s running (from this situation). They’re all facing this bravely, and so are the guests.”

Musgrove confirmed that those who have tested positive are both staff and those who had stayed at the shelter.

“I’m hoping this is a one-off and we get through this, and next thing you know, the vaccine will be coming around.”

He said SUMS has had “tons of help” from BC Housing, Fraser Health, public health, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, as well as Lookout Housing and Health Society and Options Community Services.

“It’s definitely not as bad as it could get, but certainly, it’s created a need to involve some really amazing community partners.”

SUMS operated the emergency response centre at the old North Surrey Recreation Centre. The ERC was set up in April in an attempt to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for those experiencing homelessness who were sick.

READ ALSO: Old North Surrey rec centre converted to ‘safe spaces’ for homeless during COVID-19, April 7, 2020

READ ALSO: ‘Pods’ set up at Surrey homeless centre, June 5, 2020

Pods were spaced out throughout one of the arenas to keep people distanced.

At the time, Musgrove told the Now-Leader “the worst is we’re full – both arenas.”

READ ALSO: ‘The worst is we’re full – both arenas’: North Surrey Rec Centre taking in sick homeless population, April 11, 2020

“I think I said we’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Musgrove said Thursday. “We really do feel like we were prepared for this, but you always hope it’s never going to happen.”

As a result, he said, “this is not the worst.”

“There could be a lot worse than this, and we’re prepared for that too.”

The ERC has since closed, with people being moved to The Olive Branch Shelter in the old Surrey Food Bank building.

But Musgrove said during the ERC’s time, it was mostly people sick with the common cold.

“That remained pretty consistent throughout the entire first wave.”

But the chances of COVID-19 transmission, he said, “are so great.”

“I guess it’s no surprise and it’s a group that we really have to work hard to protect.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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