Calgary Humane Society: Stop the Spread and Stay Safe! Program

By Shelly Makrugin, senior communications advisor
 
"It was fast and painless. Took at most 15 minutes. Provided peace of mind that I was not asymptomatic and potentially spreading the virus."

That is how one staff member with Calgary Humane Society (CHS) described their experience taking a COVID-19 rapid antigen test as part of the Canadian Red Cross Stop the Spread and Stay Safe! program.
 
A woman smiling over her shoulder holding a small dog in a red coat on her shoulder
Melaina and her dog Terry, courtesy of Heads and Tails

CHS developed policies and protocols at the start of the pandemic to ensure their team was kept safe, which in turn meant the animals remained safe as well.  

“We knew that if the Calgary Humane Society were to experience a COVID-19 outbreak among staff, it would be catastrophic for the animals in our care,” explains Melaina Slater, senior manager of human resources. 

CHS decided to apply to the Stop the Spread and Stay Safe Program with the Canadian Red Cross when it became available. The program provides free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kits and support to implement a screening program to eligible charities, non-profits and Indigenous community organizations.

“The screening program is one tool, when used with masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and cleaning protocols, that can reduce the spread of COVID-19. Even with vaccination, testing is critical to detect COVID-19 cases early, and the program allows non-profits and charities to continue providing vital services in their communities,” says Emily Pietropaolo, senior director of recovery services at the Canadian Red Cross.
A woman in personal protective gear, such as face masks, at a table
The Calgary Humane Society (CHS) is one of the organizations participating in the Canadian Red Cross’s Stop the Spread and Stay Safe! program, funded by the Government of Canada. Here, Anna-Lee Rieb, Calgary Humane Society Manager of Community Support and Engagement (and trained as the program Results Lead for CHS) processes rapid antigen screening samples. Courtesy of Calgary Humane Society.



The Humane Society is currently screening staff, on a volunteer basis, once a week. Melaina says it provides reassurance and lets them focus on helping as many animals as possible.

“It has provided much peace of mind. The team members who participate feel it is the least they can do to ensure our animals continue to be our main priority and we can remain open,” she shares. “Employees appreciate that we can offer them the opportunity to participate in rapid antigen screening on a regular basis.”

Melaina notes the reaction from staff has been very positive. After launching the screening program, CHS gave staff the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback. One staff member comments, "I figured if there’s even the smallest chance I could prevent others from getting sick, then why not?”

The busy organization never turns an animal away, and the Stop the Spread protocols align with the fast-paced nature of their work by making screening quick, easy and user-friendly.
A woman in personal protective gear receiving a vial from another woman in a mask.

The Calgary Humane Society (CHS) is one of the organizations participating in the Canadian Red Cross’s Stop the Spread and Stay Safe! program, funded by the Government of Canada. CHS Manager of Community Support and Engagement (and trained as the program Results Lead for CHS) Anna-Lee Rieb accepts a rapid antigen screening sample from Lisa Olund, Senior Manager of Animal Operations.Courtesy of Calgary Humane Society



“As is the case with any organization, time is our most valuable resource and is often scarce, so we were a bit nervous about how much time we would need to invest in the program “However, the training was very thorough, and we have had continued support from our program officer since the very beginning,” Melaina explains.

There has also been an unexpected, but welcome, benefit to participation in the program. Melaina says managers now have an opportunity to informally check in with team members they may not otherwise see regularly.

“They are able to share their thoughts and feedback on how they are feeling about COVID-19 in an unofficial, relaxed setting, which we think is good for everyone's mental health. We know this is not the primary purpose of the program, but it has been an unanticipated and indirect result that we believe is appreciated by those who participate.”    

Learn more by checking out our Frequently Asked Questions about the Stop the Spread and Stay Safe! program.

The Canadian Red Cross provides this screening program thanks to funding from the Government of Canada. It is available to organizations in participating provinces.
 
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