Tracking COVID-19 cases in homeless communities

Coronavirus New Mexico

After an outbreak at an Albuquerque shelter, what are the options for people on the streets

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the Westside Homeless Shelter on Sunday, the facility is no longer taking any new people. Seventy-two people tested positive so far out of 231 tests given. The City of Albuquerque is contact tracing the incident but the problem is, finding those homeless people who have come in contact.

“There are so many interactions that each person has and then you have to decide if that person was an exposure then who else might have been exposed after that,” said Mark Dimenna, Environmental Health Department.

Eleven employees tested positive and are in isolation; Some people are being isolated offsite but most are staying onsite for now. While the shelter is closed, they are deep cleaning the building and shuttles. For people who are being turned away, they are being sent to other homes as well as given hotel vouchers if there are no other options.

Dimenna says it is very difficult to find people they may have contacted outside because they don’t have phones or addresses. “Our biggest concern, as you can imagine, is making sure this does not spread any further than it already has and that we get on top of it,” said Dimenna.

City officials believe all these cases are from one incident. KRQE News 13 reached out to the city to ask what they are doing to test the homeless who are turned away or who are still out on the streets. The city says it plans to release more information on Tuesday about what they’re doing with the outbreak and the homeless community.

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