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Coronavirus fears halt Maricopa County’s annual homeless count

A large homeless encampment is shown Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, in Phoenix. Maricopa County officials said Wednesday there have been 490 cases of homeless people infected with the virus since the pandemic began among the county's approximately 7,400 homeless, with at least nine people self-identifying as homeless have died in Maricopa County. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) — Agencies helping the homeless in Arizona’s largest county say the annual count of people living on the streets was cancelled this year because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care, which includes shelters and other services for homeless people, says the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allowed it to opt out of the January 2021 count of those sleeping outdoors.

The one night tally includes face to face interviews with people on the streets to help agencies understand how many need services.

The Maricopa Association of Governments last week announced it cancelled the outdoors count amid a surge in Arizona’s reported COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

Arizona health officials on Monday reported 5,158 new cases and three additional deaths statewide, along with a record number of hospitalizations.

Last year’s tally counted 3,767 homeless people in Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. The county is Arizona’s largest and home to about 4.5 million people.

Sarah Kent, human services planner for the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care, said Monday that although agencies won’t count people outside this year, they will tally those inside shelters.

Maricopa County’s largest shelter has a maximum of 470 beds during non-pandemic times.

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