Advocates for Toronto’s homeless population are pleading for urgent action to prevent a large outbreak of coronavirus in the community and in shelters.

“Time is not on our side. This needs to happen right now,” Anne Egger, a nurse practitioner who works with people experiencing homelessness, said during a news conference outside Toronto city hall Wednesday afternoon.

“They live, eat and sleep in overcrowded shelters within a couple of feet of each other. Add in a communicable infection into this mix, and you have a disaster with epidemic proportions ready to explode with catastrophic consequences.”

The calls for increased assistance come after officials announced on Tuesday that an individual at Seaton House, one of Toronto’s largest shelters, tested positive for COVID-19. To date, eight people in the shelter system are confirmed to have the virus, according to city staff.

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Cathy Crowe, a street nurse and an advocate for those who are homeless in Toronto, said shelter conditions have been bad for some time.

She said she is aware of many instances where physical distancing advice on being more than six feet away from someone isn’t being followed (e.g.

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