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Client At Cedar Rapids Homeless Shelter Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Madeleine King
IPR File
Due to the potential exposure, all but essential shelter staff are isolating at home for two weeks.

Clients and staff at the Willis Dady Homeless Shelter in Cedar Rapids are self-isolating, after a client there tested positive for the coronavirus. The individual is recovering alone in an apartment, as the organization tries to prevent further spread at the facility.

The individual is feeling better, after initially feeling ill and going to the emergency room, according to Shelter Services Director Denine Rushing. The client tested positive at the ER, raising broader concerns at the shelter because the individual spends the vast majority of their time at the facility, according to Rushing.

“So this gentleman is by himself in an apartment where he is quarantining,” Rushing said.
“This is what was asked by the Linn County Public Health. We’re working very closely with them in what we need to do going forward."

Due to the potential exposure, all but essential shelter staff are isolating at home for two weeks. Some staffers are continuing to work at the shelter to keep it operational, delivering food to clients and monitoring their symptoms, while clients self-isolate in their own rooms and apartments at the facility.

“There’s multiple apartments there at the shelter. And there’s no more than five individuals in an apartment together. So, just as, like I said, you would self-isolate or quarantine at home with your family, that is the same thing our clients are doing,” Rushing said.

In addition to advising the organization on their response, Linn County Public Health is making sure they have enough PPE, Rushing says, including masks, face shields and gloves.

For months, advocates across the country have raised concerns that people experiencing homelessness may be even more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and less equipped to fight it off if infected.

Lack of reliable housing, barriers to employment and underlying health conditions can make it that much harder for people to stay healthy and practice social distancing.

In a written statement, Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi urged the community at large to help curb the spread of the virus in order to protect those least able to protect themselves.

“We are seeing community spread of COVID-19, which is impacting our entire community, including our most vulnerable residents,” Dwivedi’s statement reads. “We encourage everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus by maintaining physical distancing of 6 feet or more, wearing a cloth facial covering in public settings, staying home when sick, washing hands frequently, and covering coughs and sneezes.”

Advocates have warned in recent years that the population Linn County residents who are experiencing homelessness is increasing.

According to the May 2019 Linn County Eviction Report, 641 children in the Cedar Rapids School District alone were experiencing homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year.