At the start of the pandemic, AP News reported that public health officials were worried that the virus would have a devastating effect on the homeless and those who have chronic health issues. Health officials hurried to move people into hotel rooms, thinning out crowded shelters, and transferring tents to sanctioned outdoor camps in specific places
The shelter has seen some COVID-19 outbreaks according to AP News but for now, the virus hasn’t brought devastation to the shelter yet. However, more research is needed about the pandemic affecting the homeless.
Although there have been 23.1 million cases and 384k deaths in the U.S., there are few outbreaks in the homeless population. According to AP News, there were 200 infected with the virus among an estimated 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco.
In other places with high homeless populations, the cases are similarly low. In King County, which includes Seattle, a little over 400 of an estimated 12,000 homeless population have tested positive for the virus.
According to the LA Times, LA officials attempted to screen 15,000 homeless people from the virus by moving them into hotel rooms. So far, their goal has not been reached with the program now coming to an end and closing in early 2021. Currently, in LA County, 5,109 tested positive for COVID out of 60,000 homeless people.
As reported by AP News, nearly 500 of the estimated 7,400 homeless people have been diagnosed with COVID with 9 deaths in Maricopa County including Phoenix.
Health experts say numbers don’t directly show how widespread the epidemic is or how it might turn out in the long run and the amount of deaths indirectly linked to the virus is unclear. Although the coronavirus can dissipate more quickly outdoors than indoors, living outdoors has its dangers.
Due to the closing of public use places, homeless people are complaining they are low on food, water, restrooms, and currency. In San Francisco, 50 homeless people died in April and May over an eight-week period, double the normal pace, said Dr. Barry Zevin, medical director of the public health department’s street medicine program.
In New York City, the officials announced 1,400 infections and 104 deaths among the homeless population. Around 60,000 residents are occupied in shelters, unlike cities on the West Coast, where many more are unprotected.
As stated by AP News, however, since New York’s shelters contain more youngsters than the general population, the mortality rate for homeless people is 67% higher than for the general population when adjusted to age, said Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless.
“That’s extraordinarily high, in our opinion,” she said.
According to AP News, although advocates lobby for private hotel rooms for homeless individuals, a huge 1,200 shelter at the convention center in San Diego demonstrated that strictly adhering to 6-foot spacing, frequent washing, and mask-wearing, is enough to keep the case count minimal.
“We have a team of firefighters that walk the floors to put the cots back where they’re supposed to be,” said fire Deputy Chief Chris Heiser, who is incident commander for the shelter.
Around 3,000 people have come in, he counted. And of the more than 6,000 tests conducted, 18 have been positive so far. Among the nearly 8,000 homeless people, San Diego recorded more than 200 positive cases with no deaths.