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[Press] Coronavirus is spreading under the radar in US homeless shelters

This article written by Amy Maxmen on May 7, 2020 from Nature discusses the impact of coronavirus on homeless communities and shelters. With the shortage of testing and lack of resources for those living in poverty, homeless shelters and other communities are being impacted.


Researchers are beginning to test homeless individuals in the United States for the virus that causes COVID-19 — and are discovering that the situation is out of control: tests are rare and outbreaks are spreading below the radar.

The lack of testing and assistance for people living in group settings — such as those in homeless shelters, nursing homes and prisons — threatens their lives as well as the nation’s ability to curb COVID-19, because these communities can rapidly become the epicentres of new outbreaks that will spread, say researchers. Scientists are now scrambling to collect data and to model the transmission of coronavirus under different group-living situations in hopes of guiding strategies to curb outbreaks.

Many social workers await a stronger public-health response, too. Donald Frazier, the executive director of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, a non-profit organization based in Berkeley, says he cannot let new individuals into the shelters in his network without tests to reveal their coronavirus status. A related problem, he says, is that California is releasing thousands of inmates from prisons and jails to decrease the risk of outbreaks there, but they aren't being tested first — and many have nowhere to go. “It’s a mess,” he says. “I want to make sure my employees and our folks are safe, and there’s no way to know that.”

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