COVID-19 and the DTES
With the massive public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to let you know how we’re looking ahead to what an outbreak could look like in the Downtown Eastside. We’re thinking largely about the impacts on our members, the majority of whom are over the age of 50 and have pre-existing health issues – which as we know are the virus’ most likely victims so far.
We’ve also been talking about the impacts this might have on our social enterprise programs, and had a conversation yesterday with other DTES social enterprises to discuss potential action plans.
As we’re keeping a close eye on the situation in Vancouver and across the lower mainland, we’ll be re-evaluating our weekly Binners’ Meetings regularly to ensure the safety and wellness of our members. Already this week, we instituted a handwashing station with education on proper respiratory hygiene, and are encouraging people to stay home when they are sick.
However, we know that the public health structures put in place to prevent the spread of disease, like self-quarantine and handwashing, won’t be easy to implement in the DTES. How can you afford unpaid sick-leave when you supplement your government benefits with vending, binning, and honoraria? How can you self-quarantine when you share a bathroom with 15 other people? Or even more, if you’re staying in a shelter?
In our communications with our members, we will continue to inform and educate them on best practices as recommended by our local health authorities, knowing there barriers may exist that prevent them from receiving and acting on up-to-date information about this situation.
We are also working on being present at the table with the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health to ensure that binners and DTES residents are at the forefront of a coordinated community response.
While we recognize that the risk associated with COVID-19 to the public is still considered low in BC, we continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds and will be taking additional precautions as necessary.
Director, Binners’ Project
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