Olmsted County isolates homeless residents with COVID-19

Two people gather their belongings after sleeping the night in the skyway
Two people begin to gather their belongings after sleeping the night in the skyway in February 2019 in downtown Rochester, Minn. Rochester’s homeless are now facing below zero temperatures and vulnerability to omicron as it surges. Olmsted County and the Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota have implemented plans to isolate those who test positive.
Ken Klotzbach | Rochester Post Bulletin 2019 file

Homeless people in Rochester, Minn., are enduring below zero temperatures and vulnerability to omicron as it surges. In response, Olmsted County and Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota have implemented plans to isolate those who test positive.

Accommodations have been available for more than a year at Rochester’s supportive housing facility located at 105 N. Broadway Ave. Up to three people can be isolated in separate rooms. As of Friday evening, three people were identified who needed isolation there, so that facility is full.

The staff expects the number of COVID-19-positive cases to grow over the weekend. They will modify spaces at the Rochester Community Warming Center, its local homeless shelter, to isolate up to six more residents with COVID-19.

If 10 or more people need to be isolated while recovering from the virus, the entire shelter will operate as a COVID-positive unit. Healthy guests will have temporary shelter at the Rochester Salvation Army.

Olmsted County Housing Director David Dunn said transitions can be made in a matter of hours.

Hospitals, shelters and homeless service providers are helping to direct people experiencing homelessness who test positive for COVID-19 to these safe isolation spaces. Nurses and other staff check on those in isolation daily to make sure they don’t require hospitalization, and to provide meals and basic medication like Tylenol.

Dunn said “it’s been all hands on deck” with community providers to respond to the needs of those who are most vulnerable.

“It’s bad enough to have COVID,” he said. “Think about if you couple that with homelessness and then, you know, the temperatures and everything else.” 

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