April 18 (UPI) — Los Angeles plans to deploy medical street teams to help the homeless amid efforts nationwide to curb COVID-19 spread.
Los Angeles County has confirmed 11,391 cases of coronavirus and 495 deaths, health officials said Saturday.
As of Thursday, at least 33 people, who were mostly living outdoors, tested COVID-19 positive, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday that medical street teams will be deployed to homeless encampments starting next week.
The street teams will conduct rapid-result COVID-19 tests, other health screenings and counseling on effective social distancing. The teams will also set up trailers across the city, which will be used for at-risk homeless people, age 65 or older or those with pre-existing health conditions.
“With this virus touching every part of our community, we’re doing whatever we can to keep those without a home safe,” Garcetti said.
The mayor said he expects 300 trailers to be available in coming weeks.
The Los Angeles Fire Department also set up a pop-up testing clinic in Skid Row, known for having a large homeless population.
Garcetti added that there will also be transportation from Skid Row to isolation and quarantine beds for people testing positive.
“Individuals experiencing homelessness often lack a safe space to self-isolate or practice physical distancing, and many are older adults or suffer from underlying medical conditions that would leave them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “Through this coordinated effort … we will make sure no one is forgotten during this public health crisis.”
Garcetti also called on Friday for hotel and motel owners to participate in Project Roomkey, an initiative California Gov. Gavin Newsom launched earlier this month to provide shelter to those experiencing homelessness.
The project set an initial goal of securing 15,000 rooms for this purpose.
So far, Los Angeles County has secured 2,400 rooms, Garcetti said, and negotiations continue with more than 24 other hotels and motels.
On Friday night, advocates from Housing is a Human Right held a socially distant car protest at the Sunset Gordon tower in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles to demand the vacant apartment complex be turned into a homeless shelter.
Statewide, California has reported 29,398 cases and 1,050 deaths.