The number of homeless people in Orange County has risen to its highest level in years since April, and a similar deadly trend is spreading to other parts of the county, according to data compiled by the coroner’s office. While lab tests for most deaths are still pending, authorities say it is too early to know precisely what is causing the spike, such as how many deaths are linked to a coronavirus pandemic.
Orange County health officials said they did not know how many homeless people had been tested under COVID-19 because they had not received that information. In Orange County, testing in March and April was primarily limited to people who had received a medical order to do so. It’s tragic, “said Dr. John Yost, a doctor who runs the county’s homeless shelter for low-income people, including those without homes. Homeless people are among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to infectious diseases, he said.
The trend of higher death rates continued in May, at the same weekly rate as in April. There were 34 deaths in April, up from 23 in March and 22 in February, according to county data.
Orange County health officials said they would examine coroner’s data to determine why more homeless people are dying. In a written statement to Voice of America on Friday, Orange County Department of Health spokesman Dr. Michael O’Neill said his research team is reviewing the 19 COVID deaths reported to the Department of Health to compare them with those in Orange County because the state’s death records contain more information about the deceased, including possible illnesses that could put them at risk of developing severe diseases or viruses.
Referring to the coroner’s data, Orange County Department of Health spokesman Dr. John Good said Friday that he hopes to receive the data soon and conduct a thorough analysis. In a press release on Monday morning, Condon received the coroner’s data, but most of April’s deaths are still under investigation, and the reason for the increase is unknown.
Leon said while some people were living in temporary shelters in April, those who had access to temporary shelters were starving. She said she saw a homeless man in a wheelchair who appeared to be able to eat a box of food that someone had given him in April. It’s unfortunate, “she said of the increase in the homeless,” pandemics have limited possibilities to harm the health of the homeless, which can put the homeless at risk of improving their pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, or dying from diseases that they already had.
It’s scary because they don’t quite understand how contagious it is, “Leon said.” When they’re on the street, they hardly hang out with you, but if they stop eating, you’ll die in a few weeks, “Leon said. Many communities and faith groups have cut off food supplies to the camps, she said, and many of the homeless in the city of Orange County.
Roads for the homeless to sanitary facilities such as hospitals and clinics have also been closed, said David Weitzman, an attorney representing the homeless in federal court. We have seen significant changes to existing policies that disproportionately affect the homeless, especially those in low-income and sheltered communities, “Weitzman said.
Closed restaurants where they used to be had to deny them access, “he said, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health.
Many homeless people can shower in public campgrounds or cheap gyms, but these gyms are closed, and many people supplement their money through pandemic and recycling. So they take the opportunity to shower and go camping there if they had the money, “he added.
This is not the source of food, water, and security that people have traditionally used to feed, keep clean, and be safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homeless people are also at increased risk of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea. COVID is concerned about the lack of access to adequate food and water and the possibility of proper nutrition.
As well as housing, he added: “We know that we are now in an environment where living together and people on the streets have become a threat to society as a whole. Coronavirus has spread to homeless shelters, where people have traditionally been in close contact with other staff, and nursing homes and medical facilities have been particularly hard hit. By Thursday, more than 500 infections had been confirmed by residents and staff, and 23 deaths confirmed. The outbreak also occurred at Orange County jails with 23 confirmed infections and three confirmed fatalities.
Leon said: “COVID infections have spread to homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals and other public facilities in Orange County.
That would be a problem, and it would definitely be a problem for the county public health department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
We’ve seen in LA what’s crazy when someone gets infected, and it’s almost like a fire, “Leon said.
Health officials said Monday that they have no data on the number of homeless people tested for COVID-19 in Orange County. In an e-mail response to questions, the county’s Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHS) said it was not tracking the test numbers because it had not been able to track the data. The organization is currently one of the leading providers of a state program to house high-risk homeless people in motels during the motel pandemic, administered by districts, and financed mostly from federal relief and reconstruction funds.
Meulman said 22 homeless people have so far tested positive for COVID-19, including two who live in temporary shelters. Weitzman says it’s hard to say how many homeless people there were or are because the test is not available to all homeless people. If you haven’t tested, you can’t go into a homeless shelter and pretend you’re not sick, “he said.
According to the data, the trend toward more deaths continued in May, with 34 homeless people dying in Orange County in the first three months of the year, compared with 23 in April and 22 in March.
At least eight homeless people died in May, the same number as in April, and at least six in March. COVID-19 has acted only as a shelter for CalOptima members suffering from homelessness, but there have been no deaths of its members suffering from homelessness since March, and there are no pending homeless deaths, nor do they have a cause of death, Bridget Kelley, a spokeswoman for Cal Optima, said in an e-mail response. We will have the opportunity to decide whether we have CO VID-19, although that is not clear at the moment.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless, county officials have said they are working on housing them in motels. Well, the health department spokeswoman said the O.K. Health Care Agency is working on a plan to provide safe isolation and capacity to people who are homeless in California to protect at-risk populations and the community as a whole from the spread.
As of last Monday, a total of 178 homeless people had been housed at the Roomkey Motel project, according to the county. At the most recent count, Orange County counted about 4,000 homeless people, up from about 3,500 last year and about 2,200 in 2015.
As more and more people lose their homes and shelters, organizations are seeing signs that there could be a wave of new homeless in the coming months. The Illumination Foundation has received 48 of nearly 80 calls from people seeking help every week since April, she said. That number nearly tripled in April to almost 200, said Leon, who calls for assistance when people are on the brink of homelessness or becoming homeless. In April, the number of calls to the Orange County Health and Human Services Department’s homeless hotline rose from about 10 a.m. to more than 100 a day, or about 1,000 a month, and has since been increased to nearly 200.