The Sharing Place Food Centre has set up a task force to prepare for the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its clients.
Chris Peacock, executive director of the Orillia organization, said the Sharing Place board is being “very proactive,” preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.
All of its community cooking programs have been suspended until further notice. The Sharing Place is also asking that anyone with flu-like symptoms or who has been outside the country over the past 14 days not enter the Dufferin Street facility.
The organization is concerned about how COVID-19, as well as a potential recession, would affect its clients and its operations. During difficult financial times, food banks receive fewer donations.
“Our clients are the most susceptible to disease due to people in poverty having a lower immune system,” Peacock said.
He is urging people to make donations of food and money — preferably the latter — to ensure a healthy stock of items for clients. Donations can be made on The Sharing Place website.
“We want to be able to ensure that we have the inventory available, and we are low,” he said, noting the most needed items at the moment are peanut butter, pasta sauce, canned vegetables and Kraft Dinner. Add soap to that list, as The Sharing Place will now be distributing it to clients.
Peacock also expects to see a decrease in volunteers. Most of The Sharing Place’s volunteers are older than 60 and some will likely volunteer less often, as a precaution, during the outbreak.
Until recently, Peacock said, he was among those who thought there was an overreaction to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Now I’m all in. This is going to be a rough, hopefully short ride,” he said. “That whole camp of ‘fake news’ and ‘people are overreacting’ — I think that has no clout. It needs to be taken seriously.”
He noted the task force is made up of Sharing Place board members and they're the ones determining what steps to take - including suspending cooking programs, finding ways to ensure there's enough inventory, adding soap to the list of items being distributed to clients, etc.
Peacock said they'll address other issues when/if they arise.
OSMH keeping an eye on situation
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) is not sounding the alarm, but president and CEO Carmine Stumpo said the hospital is in regular contact with the Ministry of Health and other agencies.
“We continue to follow all the procedures around assessment, triage, registration and testing,” he said.
No changes have been made to visiting hours at the hospital, but those who are feeling unwell or experiencing respiratory issues are asked to not visit.
OSMH is urging people to practise good hygiene and has added extra signage around the hospital to drive that message home.
Asked if he expects to see any cases of COVID-19 in Orillia, Stumpo said, “I can’t predict the actual course, but we’re working on the assumption that we have to be prepared.”