'We're in jail almost': Sask. man says he went hungry while in province-arranged COVID-19 isolation
SASKATOON -- Victor Rio was temporarily living at the Salvation Army in Saskatoon when he was told last Friday that he had come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
He was instructed to move to the Travelodge Hotel for two weeks, the standard isolation time.
When he got there, he says he was shocked at the lack of basic food requirements that he and others were getting delivered through the Ministry of Social Services.
He says the portions are small, sometimes just a thin slice of ham and four small potato cubes for supper with little to no fruits or vegetables.
Under normal circumstances, he’d head to the foodbank and get a bag of apples or oranges and leave them in the fridge in his room – but he can’t leave.
He says he was told by one of the people in charge of those isolating that if he left the site, he’d be sent to detention in North Battleford.
Rio, a 43-year-old journeyman construction carpenter looking for work, says he went to bed hungry for the first three nights he was in isolation because the portions were too small. They were a far cry from the generous helpings at the Salvation Army, he says.
He’s from Prince Albert and has no one to bring him extra food or supplies.
“My family isn’t in this exact city, so I can’t just call them say come bring me something because they would have to travel two or three hours to get here,” he said.
He is concerned at the lack of regard for people being relocated, he said.
“We’re in jail almost and we’re told to call these numbers if we need something and then all I got was a difficult time. They didn’t even bring me anything of substance to eat at first,” Rio says.
Those staying in isolation at the hotel are allowed to go out for smoke breaks, but sometimes they are forgotten for hours during the process to do so.
He is five days into his isolation. Since taking his concerns to the Salvation Army and the ministry, he got a toaster delivered to his room and bagels with peanut butter, he said.
“It is being somewhat rectified which is great and there’s some cooperation going on now, but what I feel bad about the most, is the people before me who didn’t speak up to make this change.”
Chad Ryan, executive director of program support with the ministry, said they are working with public health to transfer people from assisted living locations to alternate sites to isolate. As of Oct. 31, they’ve relocated 663 people to five hotels in Saskatchewan for isolation.
If someone in isolation has concerns, they are asked to reach out to the hotel, the ministry or the Saskatchewan Heath Authority, he said.
Rio says that when he gets out he’s most looking forward to getting a really good cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s and maybe a donut to lift his spirit.