County Officials Scramble To Control Coronavirus In Homeless Population

Apr 17, 2020, 8:08 PM

MIDVALE, Utah – Health officials have been scrambling to slow the spread of COVID-19 in one of Utah’s most vulnerable populations – the homeless.

There were only two positive cases at the South Salt Lake Resource Shelter last week, but those numbers have grown among the homeless.

Extra precautions have been put into place at The Road Home in Midvale. Officials said they’re in pretty good shape. However, due to the outbreak at the South Salt Lake center, they’ve doubled down on their efforts to keep residents safe.

The need has been greater than ever at homeless shelters and resource centers throughout the state, but it’s not exactly business as usual.

“We are prioritizing the safety of our staff right along with the safety of our guests,” said Michelle Flynn, executive director of The Road Home.

On April 7 and 8, two men at the South Salt Lake Resource Center tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, 94 out of 205 men staying at the center have tested positive. Those infected have been moved into isolation.

“It is like a very large household, so the household transmission rates we typically see are between 25 and 50 percent,” said Ilene Risk, the epidemiology bureau manager for the Salt Lake County Health Department. “What we’re seeing at the shelter is not a surprise.”

“I think what’s happened in Salt Lake County at the men’s resource center has been a lesson for the rest of the state as they prepare,” added community advocate, Pamela Atkinson.

At The Road Home Shelter, they’ve brought in outside companies for deep cleaning. 

“We’re continuing that high level of diligence of screening, both at the front door, and twice a day during breakfast and dinner meals,” Flynn said. “We’re taking temperatures and asking those questions and recording that.”

Residents over the age of 60, or those who have underlying health conditions, have been moved. 

“We opened up a hotel program here in Salt Lake County for the most vulnerable of the vulnerable homeless population,” said Katherine Fife, director of programs and partnerships for the county.

Officials said every day the numbers change, but they’re hopeful all the precautions are working, and they can continue to serve and keep healthy the homeless members of our community.

“It’s really been making a difference as we talk with each other at least once a week,” Atkinson said.

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County Officials Scramble To Control Coronavirus In Homeless Population