Use of Vancouver’s overdose prevention sites down amid COVID-19 crisis

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Vancouver Coastal Health’s chief medical officer, Dr. Patricia Daly, says fewer drug users are visiting overdose prevention sites due to the COVID-19 crisis, which will lead to a spike in deaths.

The Downtown Eastside recently saw eight overdose deaths in a week, and Daly says there is growing concern that people are dying alone in their rooms.

“I’m concerned that because of fear around COVID-19, which we’ve only really seen at very low levels in that community, that people are not accessing life-saving services such as overdose prevention and we’ve actually seen a little bit of a spike of overdose deaths in March and April,” Daly said.

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1:38Coronavirus concerns on the Downtown Eastside

Coronavirus concerns on the Downtown Eastside

There are normally 6,000 visits a week at overdose prevention sites. Since the pandemic, that number has dropped to 2,000 due to concerns over exposure from both operators and visitors.

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Work is being done to change that through education.

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“The advice about staying two metres apart,

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