Coronavirus spreading in homeless shelters; many cases are asymptomatic


Op-ed excerpt by President and CEO Kevin Lindamood and CMO Adrienne Trustman

On any given night, at least 5,200 Marylanders live in emergency and transitional shelters. Last week a small cluster of positive test results in a local substance use disorder treatment program operated by nonprofit The Baltimore Station prompted the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, the Baltimore City Health Department and Health Care for the Homeless to take quick action in partnership with The Baltimore Station’s leadership. On Friday, 56 remaining residents were moved to isolation, where they were all tested for coronavirus — a response developed and implemented in less than 24 hours.

The results are concerning. Thirty residents, more than half of those tested, were positive for COVID-19. More troubling, only one was symptomatic at the time of testing. We don’t know if those without symptoms will become sick over the next couple of weeks. We also don’t know how many the virus will reach through silent spread or who may become seriously ill. Nonetheless, these results demonstrate the speed with which the virus can travel in “congregate settings,” where people live or gather closely together, among those who do not display symptoms.

Similar results have been found at shelters nationally. More than half the residents and staff members of the largest shelter in San Francisco tested positive for the virus last week. In Boston, the Health Care for the Homeless program and state health officials tested everyone in a 400-person shelter; 146 residents tested positive without displaying symptoms. The consistent discovery of asymptomatic spread demands widespread testing in congregate settings — including nursing homes, prisons and homeless shelters — in Maryland and across the country.

Read their full op-ed in The Baltimore Sun here.

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