Universal COVID-19 Testing Announced for Homeless: Nearly 500 Had Tested Positive in Boston Shelters Late Last Week

With the numbers of positive cases among the homeless in shelters heading towards 500, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the City of Boston will move forward with universal testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus) for all unhoused individuals in Boston. The City of Boston has secured an additional 1,000 tests, which will allow public health officials to test all clients in Boston’s shelter system over the next two weeks. The efforts will be led by Boston’s partners at Boston Health Care for the Homeless, in coordination with the Boston Public Health Commission, St. Francis House, and the Pine Street Inn.

The tests are being donated by the Boston company Orig3n.

“We continue to work every day to support our homeless population and the staff who serve them–with shelter, with care, with testing,” said Mayor Walsh. “This is a big step forward in protecting our most vulnerable populations. Universal testing in Boston’s homeless community is critical to allow us to provide individuals the targeted care they need. We will continue to work with our partners in government and the nonprofit community about the resources we need moving forward.”

As of Thursday, April 23, 1,340 individuals have been tested, and 453 homeless individuals who have been tested are positive, or 34 percent. All Boston Public Health Commission shelters remain open, and the City of Boston has been conducting widespread testing in this population. As testing is completed, individuals who are positive will go to get the care and support they need to recover. Individuals who are negative will be placed in designated areas to allow for better social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus.

Since the start of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, Boston has worked to protect its most at-risk populations, including homeless individuals. The City of Boston has added over 900 new beds all across the city to reduce the density in the city’s shelters, and to treat homeless individuals who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Boston Hope at the BCEC has 500 beds dedicated to the care of homeless individuals, and the City of Boston has built quarantine and treatment centers next to its largest shelters.

The City of Boston has also worked with its partners to create 172 beds at Suffolk University dorms to improve shelter spacing, and 70 beds at a former hospital on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton. The City has also helped add 250 beds at Newton Pavilion, in partnership with the Boston Medical Center. In addition, there are 50 beds for veterans at a facility in Brighton, and Boston University has provided 75 rooms for Pine Street Inn staff.

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