Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for extra precautions to protect a particularly vulnerable population – the homeless.
“While this is a challenging issue for everyone, people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable and we must do everything we can to help them,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “LA County is being proactive and collaborating with all stakeholders. I urge everyone to be calm, cautious, mindful and empathetic as we work together to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
In addition to voting for a Barger/Solis motion that the Board of Supervisors declare a local emergency, he asked LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer about the need to roll out sanitation stations and other measures to prevent any outbreaks among people who live on the streets, many of whom already suffer from poor health and have compromised immune systems.
Dr. Ferrer acknowledged the safety precautions that the general public have been urged to take against coronavirus can be “impossible” for those who are unsheltered. “They cannot stay home when they’re sick. They cannot wash their hands often. Many times, they don’t have a medical provider that they’re in contact with,” she testified before the Board. “We also know that people who are experiencing homelessness are actually sicker than the general public and already have heightened mortality rates so we are very concerned that novel coronavirus can disproportionately devastate people who are experiencing homelessness.”
Dr. Ferrer said Public Health teams are currently visiting hundreds of interim housing facilities – mostly homeless shelters – countywide to ensure each has adequate facilities and links to medical providers. This week, she will meet with the leaders of several departments and agencies – including LA County’s Homeless Initiative and Office of Emergency Management (OEM), as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority – to identify locations where homeless people can be isolated when sick.
“If we do start seeing cases among people who are experiencing homelessness, we need to be prepared to house people who have mild illness and don’t require hospitalization,” Dr. Ferrer told the Board. “These folks will require… a place where they can be isolated and other folks who are (their) close contacts will require a place where they, too, can be quarantined. We are working with OEM and our other county partners to identify what those locations might look like. What we don’t want is a lot of people going back out to the streets when we could be facing possible outbreak situations.”
For the most up-to-date and accurate data on coronavirus, available in different languages, go to Public Health’s webpage: