The number of novel coronavirus cases among the homeless hit triple digits in Los Angeles County on Wednesday, April 22, a day after officials announced that 43 people tested positive at a single Skid Row shelter.
Of the county’s 100 cases, 55 were sheltered, and their close contacts quarantined, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
“The large increase,” Ferrer said, was due to the “outbreak that we had at the Union Rescue Mission.”
Extensive testing was recently done at the center, where hundreds of people were sheltered. Nearly 200 have been tested so far.
A formerly homeless worker at the mission was the first to test positive, and he later died. More cases were subsequently revealed among people staying at the shelter.
Eight homeless shelters have reported cases, county officials said this week. Among them: Three impromptu shelters operating out of recreation centers, now listed on the county’s website.
Institutional settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, correctional facilities, treatment centers and shelters have borne among the greatest tolls, in terms of deaths from COVID-19.
A total of 292 residents of institutional settings have died from COVID-19 so far, putting them at 40 percent of the county’s now 729 deaths, with the majority of those people living at skilled nursing homes, Ferrer said Wednesday.
Six additional sites were added to a list of such facilities, bringing the total institutional settings with cases to 275, she said.
Due to “new information” about the infectiousness of people without symptoms, county public health officials have had to “change our strategies,” especially at institutional settings, chief among them nursing homes, she said.
Ferrer explained the county had been operating under the “assumption that we needed to worry about people who were symptomatic,” Ferrer said.
“But it turns out that we were wrong,” she said.
While tests in general are still prioritized for those with COVID-19 symptoms, Ferrer said Wednesday that efforts are underway this week to increase testing at institutional settings with outbreaks, for both symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and staff.
As the county works to test more people, Ferrer added, they will also be need to “make sure that we’re able to maintain this level of testing for the months ahead.”