COVID-19 outbreak at refugee centre, people “taken away by ambulance” — staff call the cops on our reporter!

Eleven refugees and 12 staffers have tested positive for the Wuhan virus at the Willowdale Welcome Centre in north Toronto.

Yet, does that truly come as a surprise?

After all, the Welcome Centre building, situated on prime real estate, used to be the headquarters for North York Hydro. It was formerly office space, and was never meant to be used as a hotel in which a large number of people would congregate and sleep overnight.

Residents, staff test positive for coronavirus

In fact, this is the sort of facility health experts claim is the perfect breeding ground for a virus like COVID-19.

I paid a visit to this latest Hogtown hotbed of the #coronavirus and was shocked by what I saw. Despite 23 people testing positive at the time of filming, it seemed like business as usual.

Through the windows, I could see groups of people congregating inside, clearly breaking the 2-metre social distancing rule. (I was not allowed to come into the building – despite the fact this is a taxpayer-funded facility – and when I wouldn’t go away, staff lowered the blinds so I could not see inside anymore.)

Buildings' residents don't appear to be on lockdown

But when refugees exited and entered the building, I was shocked yet again: so many of them were not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), even though the virus appears to be running rampant in this venue.

And hey, why is there no lockdown? Why are potentially infected people coming and going at will in the first place?

I reached out to Patricia Mueller, the chief executive officer of Homes First Society (the non-profit organization that operates the Willowdale Welcome Centre) but she declined my invitation of an on-camera interview, merely sending me a statement that didn’t even acknowledge that several staffers at the centre had tested positive.

Police called after attempt to interview residents

The lack of transparency is so bad that when I attempted to interview refugees outside the building, management at the centre actually called police! (And sure enough, some four cruisers eventually showed up.)

When I told police about all the social isolating infractions I witnessed, it quickly became a case of “nothing to see here, folks.” I was simply directed to get in touch with Health Canada and/or Toronto Public Health. Oh, and to get off the publicly funded property ASAP.

Bottom line: I don’t get it. Wasn’t Toronto Mayor John Tory recently bragging about how many law-abiding citizens were getting zapped with huge fines by law enforcement for doing such egregious things as, oh, walking along a boardwalk on a nice spring day?

Alas, it doesn’t look like Mayor Tory’s social-distancing mandates apply at the Willowdale Welcome Centre. I wonder why?