San Diego is taking steps to protect the homeless population from the coronavirus.
In a letter to city managers, the county offered cities help to procure, pay for and install hand washing stations. On Monday San Diego installed 66 stations, Carlsbad installed 6, and the county installed 14 in unincorporated areas.
“I’m extremely worried because this is a population that’s going to get really hit if the virus gets within the population, both out here on the streets and in the shelters,” said Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate.
McConnell said installing hand washing stations is “low hanging fruit.” He would like to see a quicker, more aggressive response when it comes to the homeless.
"I’ve seen flyers from the county that say stay home if you're feeling sick," he said. "This is home, this sidewalk is home to people who are homeless.”
The city and county said later this week that Homeless Outreach Teams will be handing out information to educate the homeless about prevention and public health nurses will be sent to the shelters to screen people for symptoms. The county is also looking at ways to house people who need to be isolated or quarantined. Shelters will also get more resources to sanitize shelters.
McConnell remembers what happened when San Diego did not act quickly enough to respond to the hepatitis A outbreak three years ago.
“The dysfunction between the city and county delayed even basic things getting done,’ said McConnell. “We can not let that happen again.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement, “The city of San Diego is taking measures in consultation with and at the direction of county public health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among individuals living outdoors and in shelters. While this virus poses a very low risk to healthy persons, we know that many on our streets suffer from underlying health conditions-raising their risk for infection. We are on high alert and remain in constant communication with the County on this issue.”