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COVID-19 cluster among homeless in Juneau climbs to 31, isolation facility set up

The Juneau Arts and Culture Center has been used as a warming shelter for since the pandemic...
The Juneau Arts and Culture Center has been used as a warming shelter for since the pandemic hit Alaska(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 1:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center has set up an isolation facility at Centennial Hall as the number of COVID-19 cases among the homeless population continues to rise.

A release from the city said 130 COVID-19 tests were conducted Oct. 9 at Housing First, AWARE and Glory Hall. Though results are still pending for most tests, at least nine have come back positive. Half of the test results due back on Thursday.

This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases associated with the homeless population to 31.

Along with the isolation facility being set-up at the Centennial Hall Tuesday afternoon, the Downtown Public Library will also temporarily close to indoor service. Five people are currently staying at Centennial Hall who are symptomatic or are close contacts with people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

A few dozen people are staying at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center each night which has been used as a warming shelter since the pandemic began. A few dozen more people are quarantining at a downtown hotel while a handful more are staying at the Glory Hall.

No one connected to the outbreak among the city’s homeless population has been hospitalized but a potential surge in COVID cases has put Bartlett Regional Hospital on notice.

“Anything is a real possibility in a pandemic,” said Rose Lawhorne, the incident commander at the hospital. “My hope is that the way that we’re seeing our unsheltered population spreading the virus that we will have more of a trickle surge into the hospital for patients who need medical care.”

Lawhorne says the hospital currently has five COVID patients with space for 15 more. There are 10 ventilators available and none are being used.

The City and Borough of Juneau and Bartlett Regional Hospital have plans to set up alternate care sites if hospital capacity is stretched thin.

The latest COVID-19 information is available on the city’s website.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to provide additional information about Juneau COVID-19 cases.

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