Dr. James O'Connell, the founding physician of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program thinks "it's inevitable" that coronavirus will hit the homeless community.
Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the University of California, San Francisco Center for Vulnerable Populations, says that without precautions and actions, the virus “could spread like wildfire.”
Homeless communities throughout the nation are at a very high risk of being infected with COVID-19 than the general population. As of right now, officials have yet to find any evidence of coronavirus amongst them. The population is considered extremely exposed and has suffered in the past from other disease outbreaks.
“If they get this particular virus, there's a high degree of probability it's going to impact them more severely than it does the general population, with a higher mortality,” said Jimmy Jones, executive director of the agency Community Action.
The homeless and their pets often do not have hand sanitizer around or a place to wash their hands. In Los Angeles County the health department is sending a group of teams to over 300 homeless facilities to ensure people are following basic hygiene and not sharing food. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Department Director for the County of Public Health, said she’s urging shelters to prepare large spaces to isolate those who may become sick.
"My heart goes out to the fact that they live in conditions that make it almost impossible for them," she said of the homeless Friday. Dr. Ferrer goes on to say, “Many of the strategies that we ask people to take — for people who are unsheltered, are actually impossible.”
Since an unprecedented number of people living on the streets of California, COVID-19 has a scenario that is unlike anything the state has ever seen. The lack of access to shelter, medical care, testing sites, and hand-washing stations, the homeless population may be a ticking timebomb getting ready to explode.
To help combat this pandemic and help the homeless and their pets, Animal Aid Network-Dudes Ranch Rescue recommends that the following items are donated to shelters during this crisis:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—Gloves, surgical masks and goggles
Cleaning Supplies Large and small garbage bags and other waste disposal supplies
Thermometers and thermometer covers
Medications used to bring fevers down such as acetaminophen
Bags including re-sealable zip-top plastic bags
Disinfectants such as bleach, Lysol or other household disinfectants
Linens such as towels, blankets, sheets, hospital gowns, and robes
Dividers which can be sheets, curtains, twine and nails to rig up barriers for isolation of sick (plastic shower curtains could also be used for this purpose)
Extra fluids (water) and foods including juices, Gatorade or Gatorade instant mix (powder), Pedialyte, instant soups, Jell-O and teas