COVID-19 Comes To The Eugene Mission
“What will we do if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Eugene Mission?”
In early March 2020, the prospect of an outbreak seemed surreal. Nonetheless, knowing that God has entrusted us with many medically fragile and older guests, we immediately developed health, safety, and operational plans. We recognized that our vulnerable guests were in a dilemma. They faced the ravages of the street if they left the Mission, including unsupported mental illness, substance abuse, human trafficking, and an unhealthy environment. If our guests stayed, however, they faced the enhanced exposure risks of a congregant living environment.
While there was no good information on the health impacts COVID-19 has on unhoused folks departing sheltered environments and their communities, the pandemic’s effect on congregant living situations was concerning.
Our entire Mission Family prayed. We knew that God was calling for us to be “our best” and for us to completely rely upon Him for “the rest.”
Then, as the months passed without a single positive COVID-19 test at the Eugene Mission, we began to hope that it was God’s will to deliver us like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego without even a tinge of the pandemic upon us. While we continued rigorous mask wearing, de-densification, social distancing and sanitation measures unabated, we prayed for an end to the pandemic.
Despite our best efforts in early December, a few guests developed mild symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. We immediately deployed stringent quarantine and isolation measures. When a few more guests developed mild symptoms and tested positive, we advocated for and obtained campus-wide testing. It was then that we discovered that 68 guests and one staff member tested positive, making the Mission’s outbreak one of the largest shelter outbreaks in the nation.
At the time of this writing, follow-up testing has identified a grand total of 99 guests and two staff members testing positive. Not one person has required notable medical intervention. A few guests have developed very mild symptoms. Most guests have remained asymptomatic. There were no positive tests in our most recent campus wide testing. We thank God for what appears to be containment and very mild health effects. We thank you for your prayers.
Please join us in rejoicing and praising God!
Christmas Spirit Triumphs Over Challenges
It’s four o’clock in the morning and Eugene Mission Kitchen Manager Phaedra Jackson is lining up dozens of individual fruit and yogurt parfaits and stacks of to-go boxes with an eye on the hundreds of slices of bacon sizzling on the grill.
“It’s important to me that people feel loved and cared for,” says Phaedra, who is multi-tasking with aplomb. “I’d like to make this day as special as possible.”
Kitchen Supervisor Jake Reed is sliding tray upon tray of his famous bread pudding into ovens after adding a glaze of caramelized maple syrup. Director of Philanthropy Beth Sheehan backs her car up to the kitchen door with two hundred individual five-inch quiches she baked offsite at a borrowed commercial kitchen near the University of Oregon. Mission staff begin trickling in dressed in costumes complete with holiday masks. The entire campus is sheltering in place for the second time in 2020.
It is Christmas morning, and all are working to keep spirits bright despite 20 consecutive days of sheltering in place.
In early December 2020, the Eugene Mission saw the first positive test for COVID-19 after nine months without incident. With cases soaring in Lane County, the Eugene Mission had spent months planning its COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan and was ready when COVID-19 showed up. It was a plan we had hoped to never need.
The Mission has been COVID-19-focused since the pandemic began with a comprehensive plan in place that involves daily COVID-19 screening of guests and staff, enhanced building sanitation using electrostatic sprayers, near-constant laundry, faithful hand washing, dutiful mask wearing, and strategic relocating of offices so that all available space could be dedicated to physical distancing for guests.
When Lane County’s high number of COVID-19 cases caught up with the Eugene Mission, months of planning allowed for quick action. Executive Director Sheryl Balthrop advocated for a full campus screening of all staff and guests while restricting the campus to staff and current guests only. Leading by example, Sheryl herself moved into her office and spent the holidays (including her birthday) sheltering in place at the Eugene Mission to be available 24/7.
Many guests of the Eugene Mission are of advanced age and have serious underlying health conditions. A full campus screening allowed the Mission to get guests into isolation and into quarantine, and to be carefully monitored should there be a decline in their health. Ultimately, 99 guests and two staff members tested positive. All have recovered with most having experienced very mild to no symptoms whatsoever. Praise God!
Meanwhile, back in the Mission kitchen, hundreds of to-go containers of Christmas breakfast are being loaded onto rolling carts and wheeled to the various quarantine and isolation areas across the Mission’s 7.5-acre campus. Each cart includes a large thermal container of fresh, hot coffee and gift bags for each guest.
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” says Phaedra cheerfully. “There is a lot of love here.”
With breakfast finished, Phaedra and the team turn their attention to a special mid-day meal of roasted turkey, green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes and Caesar salad.
“Christmas can be a difficult season,” says R3 Program Director Marshall Eck wistfully. “Our guests might be reminiscing about years gone by or lost love ones. Add to that, concerns about COVID-19 and being in isolation and it’s a real challenge. We are working hard to encourage our guests and to encourage one another every single day.”
Sheltering in Place Take Two
On Friday December 3, 2020, the Eugene Mission began sheltering in place for the second time in 2020. We have never been more grateful for our 7.5 acre campus, our dedicated staff and our cooperative guest population!
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Please pray for health and safety of our guests, and for our staff who continue to serve the vulnerable during this pandemic. For the continued support and wisdom of programs that truly help our guests find hope and healing.
- Salad Greens
- Pepper and Garlic Powder
- Ground Coffee
- Plastic Wrap
- #10 (large) cans of green beans and corn
- Ink Jet Cartridges: HP64XL Tri-Color
- Continued Financial Support for Life Change and R3 Programs
Rejoice in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Eugene Mission’s COVID-19 Measures Praised
Lane County Public Health representatives commended the Eugene Mission’s management of COVID-19 related matters. The officials were impressed with the Mission’s sanitation process and other procedures protecting our guests and the community. We believe that the Mission’s immediate implementation of prevention measures at the onset of the pandemic was key to successfully warding off COVID for nine months.
By implementing our COVID Emergency Response Plan, the Eugene Mission is preventing asymptomatic guests from spreading the disease, while at the same time caring for and providing services to guests who would otherwise be out on the streets and at greater risk. Marshaling our experience serving vulnerable individuals for more than 60 years, we developed a COVID Emergency Response Plan specific to our guest population.
The Mission’s COVID Procedures Protect Guests, Staff and the Community
Implemented at start of pandemic:
- Screening of guests and staff – taking temperatures, checking for symptoms and quarantining new guests for
14 days prior to them joining the greater guest population.
- Rigorous sanitation measures – we spend $5,000 per month just to replenish cleaning supplies!
- Implementing COVID protocols – hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing.
- Re-purposing of space – complete campus reconfiguration to ensure safe social distancing among guests and staff.
Triggered by first case of COVID-19:
- With protecting guests and the community utmost in mind, we restricted the Mission campus to staff and current guests only. Until specific benchmarks are met, guests stay on campus, undergoing monitoring and retesting,
- We immediately began contact tracing using our internal tracking systems. Any guests and staff who have been in contact with affected persons enter a period of quarantine with guests staying at dedicated spaces on campus.
- Guests testing positive for COVID-19 enter a period of isolation on campus with daily health checks.
- Committed to transparency, the Mission alerts the media and develops internal communications for guests, staff and volunteers to be informed and stay safe.