COVID outbreak declared at Orillia Lighthouse shelter


‘It’s hard. It impacts everything,’ a lighthouse official says, noting that there are currently 12 positive cases, with 11 people currently in isolation at the facility.

Mark Twain once said that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

In the health care sector, many echo this sentiment in regards to the feeling among many that the pandemic is over.

Even as public health mandates decrease, the number of people with COVID-19 is increasing. Just ask Linda Goodall, Executive Director of Lighthouse Residential and Community Services Center.

On March 30, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) declared an outbreak at the Queen Street facility.

In less than 10 days, the outbreak grew to 12 positive cases involving “mostly participants”, but also including staff and one volunteer.

On Monday afternoon, eight shelter participants were in isolation at the Lighthouse, alongside three of their loved ones.

“It’s tough,” Goodall said of the outbreak. “It affects everything”

A previous outbreak, which spanned 47 days from mid-December 2021 to late January 2022, saw 14 positive cases spread between staff and attendees.

This epidemic is, in some ways, worse.

“This time in this outbreak, the mental health and addictions issues are much more extreme,” Goodall said, noting that some of the people who tested positive are “pretty sick,” while others have symptoms. “relatively minor”.

“When you’re in a communal living space and you don’t have a home, your mental health can be stressed, as can addictions when you’re isolated,” she explained, noting that staff employs harm reduction strategies and works closely with participants.

The outbreak is also weighing on staff, Goodall said. In addition to additional cleaning, staff are working overtime due to the number of isolated people at the facility.

“Once again we had to use our youth wing to accommodate people… but since we have so many (in isolation) we had to move to our regular wing as well,” Goodall explained.

This means that “double staffing” is needed in the upstairs area, “so the staffing is also over capacity”.

For Goodall, perhaps even worse is that being in an outbreak means the shelter cannot accommodate new participants. This means that some people are forced to live on the streets.

“There are people, absolutely in Orillia and Simcoe County, right now, that we can’t accommodate,” Goodall said, noting that the health unit requires all admissions to be suspended during an outbreak.

She said “it really is a difficult situation” juggling a potentially dangerous living environment and the dangers of contracting COVID at the shelter.

The outbreak is also impacting the shelter’s finances. She said she had requested a meeting with Simcoe County to seek additional funding to help with rising costs associated with additional cleaning and required staff time.

Le Phare has restarted its Meal Train Program while others have started creating “isolation packages” for people in isolation. For more information, visit the website or call 705-329-2265 ext 1.

The Lighthouse has also set up a COVID relief fund under “Donate Now” on its website,


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