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Death on Pandora Avenue not thought to be COVID-19 related

A man in his late 30s died in his tent
Approximately 75 tents lined Pandora Avenue on April 3, some closer than the two-metre physical distance guideline set out by the provincial health officer. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

The BC Coroners Service has confirmed it is investigating the death of a man in his late 30s on April 17 at the Pandora Avenue homeless camp.

Currently, between 80 to 100 tents can be seen packed tightly together lining the avenue across from Our Place Society and the Harbour Supervised Consumption Site.

“We’re early in the investigation and cannot confirm the manner or cause of death at this time,” said the Coroner Service in an email.

Grant McKenzie, communications manager for Our Place, said he doesn’t think the death had anything to do with COVID-19 but added the man died in his tent.

READ ALSO: Concerns rise for Greater Victoria’s homeless population during COVID-19

Both the Pandora Avenue homeless camp and the one set up in Topaz Park, which has more than 200 tents, have drawn various criticism, including being credited for a recent crime spike in the area and for a lack of COVID-19 testing for the vulnerable population. So far, only people who are presenting with respiratory symptoms are being tested for the virus.

READ ALSO: Rabbi calls on Victoria to close Topaz Park homeless camp

The Pandora strip was supposed to be a temporary measure, with the City initially promising another established camp in Royal Athletic Park. The City has since announced it is aiming to move people indoors to sites at local hotels and centres.

If someone is showing symptoms of a respiratory illness at the Pandora Avenue camp, they are sent to an off-site location for testing and put in a specially allocated hotel room to await test results.

The province, in partnership with the City of Victoria, has secured 160 units in hotel rooms across the city for the purpose of self-isolation for potentially ill people facing homelessness.

At Topaz Park, similar measures are in place. If someone is showing symptoms, nurses on site do an assessment and if they’re deemed to be COVID-19 symptoms, the person is tested and removed from the camp to isolate.

As of April 20, no one from either camp has tested positive for COVID-19.

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