Phoenix homeless shelter fighting outbreak of COVID-19

Jul 26, 2022, 4:45 AM
(Facebook Photo/Circle the City)...
(Facebook Photo/Circle the City)
(Facebook Photo/Circle the City)

PHOENIX — The Downtown Medical Respite Center run by local nonprofit Circle the City is springing into action to combat an outbreak of COVID-19.

The virus spread quickly through the shelter for people experiencing homelessness, Circle the City’s Marty Hames said.

“We went from two patients being COVID-positive to approximately 20 patients in the course of a couple of days,” she said.

Symptoms have been mild so far, but it’s still a cause for concern as the Respite Center is a congregate facility that houses the most vulnerable patients.

“Our patients are on dialysis or recovering from cancer on chemotherapy, or they have breathing problems,” Hames said. “Because of this medically vulnerable population, we have to be really aggressive to try to mitigate the spread.”

Circle the City’s solution was to divide up the Respite Center into designated quarantine and non-quarantine areas in an effort to slow the spread as much as possible.

Hames said the transition has been a bit of a scramble.

“We were in full PPE (personal protective equipment) over the weekend trying to move patients to our quarantine spaces,” Hames said.

“It’s required everybody from the top down to roll up their sleeves and do what we can to try to protect patients.”

Hames adds all this comes as the Valley is seeing a rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness and as shelters are seeing an influx of patients because of hot summer temperatures.

How is COVID-19 affecting people experiencing homelessness who are still on the street? If they aren’t receiving medical care, it can be hard to know.

“Our medical mobile street teams aren’t really reporting [COVID-19 outbreaks] to us so far,” Hames said.

“Within settings like our Respite Care Centers, where we have patients living in very close quarters … that’s where we’re seeing this significant surge.”

For now, Circle the City will continue its efforts to contain the outbreak and keep it from spreading to the patients who are still not infected.

“We can’t take any chances with any of our patients,” Hames said. “We can’t let our guard down.”

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Phoenix homeless shelter fighting outbreak of COVID-19