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COVID-19 Shuts Down Waterfront Mission

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Jennie McKeon
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WUWF Public Media
A Facebook post alerted the public of Waterfront's closure due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the shelter.

Update: Tuesday, Aug. 10
Additional Covid cases have been determined among the men staying at Waterfront’s Pensacola campus, according to a release sent from the nonprofit Tuesday afternoon. Overnight Dorm service remains suspended and will resume no sooner than Aug 23.

Original story:
Waterfront Rescue Mission’s overnight shelter is closed for the next 10 days, after discovery of a COVID-19 outbreak among some of its clients.

“Two days ago, we had a client who had symptoms, so we had him tested and when he tested positive, we began contact tracing and concluded that we needed to test several people,” said Waterfront Executive Vice President Angie Ishee.

Nineteen men tested positive — 10 in the overnight shelter and the rest in the mission’s short-term homeless program. But Ishee said none of them needed hospitalization showing either mild symptoms or none at all.

“They were put into quarantine; thankfully, we have several building on campus, so we were able to put them in a separate building so that they didn’t infect others,” Ishee said. “We have been working with county and city officials, as well as with Opening Doors Northwest Florida, to devise a plan for them to be able to continue their isolation period.”

All other clients at Waterfront have been tested, says Ishee, and so far there have been no other positive results. Symptoms such as possible fevers and others will continue to be monitored accordingly going forward. The mission has also given a heads-up to other shelters in the area.

“We work closely with other service providers, health care providers – said Ishee. “Community Health Northwest Florida, and the local health department,” Ishee said. “Because we’re not the experts, and we lean on them to help guide our next steps and guide those decisions.”

But the Waterfront shutdown does not mean an empty facility.

“During those days we’ll have about 20 men who will remain, as part of our homeless rescue programs; that includes men in our veterans program, work training, the working homeless program,” said Ishee. “They have committed to a program, and we can safely distance [them].”

Some who have refused to be vaccinated for the coronavirus have done so for religious reasons, contending they have protection “from above.” Ishee, who works for a faith-based organization, says Waterfront Rescue Mission follows CDC guidelines, and offers vaccinations to the clients wanting them.

“Certainly it’s their choice — it’s everybody’s choice, as well as our staff,” Ishee said. “We offer the option and then people make those individual decisions. We do address it very, very quickly, and rely on the experts to help guide our decisions. We are certainly not a health care facility, and we don’t hold that expertise.”

So far, no Waterfront employees have shown COVID symptoms, with none testing positive. Waterfront’s also suspended its volunteer program, at least through the ten day closing period.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.