Confusion is growing around Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to relocate the homeless to recreation centers during the coronavirus outbreak, which contradicts Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
The Los Angeles Times reported this weekend that clashes over the city’s policies threaten the overall success of the fight to stop the spread of the respiratory disease.
Officials are concerned that if the virus spreads among the city’s growing homeless population — which reached nearly 60,000 last year — it could overwhelm local hospitals.
But the city’s ongoing plan to move 6,000 homeless people indoors could expose more homeless people to the virus.
The CDC’s guidelines for managing the homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic caution that moving homeless people indoors could make social distancing harder.
The guidelines also specifically warn against clearing homeless encampments, which is evidently one of Mayor Garcetti’s goals.
It is possible that dispersing homeless people from encampments could disconnect them from their usual social service providers — and spread the virus.
The Times notes that homeless people “are more likely to have underlying health conditions and weakened immune systems, often from living on the streets,” and are therefore more vulnerable to the coronavirus, if infected.
But the CDC recommends moving homeless people to individual housing units, not congregating them in common living spaces. The fact that the beds inside the recreation centers are six feet apart may not make a great difference.
California is releasing inmates from prison precisely because of concerns that living in close quarters could spread the virus –a suspicion borne out by reports that the coronavirus is “accelerating” in jails and prisons nationwide.
As Breitbart News reported Sunday, the CDC recently published a paper including data from Japan suggesting that transmission of coronavirus in indoor settings is nearly twenty times as likely as transmission of the virus outside.
The Times acknowledges:
There has been pushback to using the recreation centers, though, and a fear that they could be incubators for spreading the novel coronavirus among an already high-risk population. While most health experts, advocates and some politicians agree that quick action will require using multiple types of shelter, they say single-occupancy spaces such as motel or hotel rooms are safer.
San Francisco has been more focused on finding individual hotel and motel rooms for the homeless. It is also opening new shelters — largely to relieve the crowding in existing shelters, not to move more people into shared spaces.
Last week, Breitbart News reported that city employees were picking up homeless people off the street in a shuttle, and taking them to recreation centers. There did not appear to be a system of prioritizing the most vulnerable.
The Times notes that Garcetti’s plan is stymied by staff shortages. Some city employees, who have been forced (or “impressed”) into working as “Disaster Service Workers,” appear to be afraid or unwilling do so.
The Times cited one anti-poverty activist: “It’s not a skill thing. It’s a will thing. … The emergency relief workers, they’re not interested or willing to staff the shelters because they are saying, ‘Hey, that is not a medical emergency.’”
Meanwhile, the homeless still on the streets are having more trouble finding food because of the economic shutdown. One UCLA researcher said that only 10% could survive a lockdown lasting more than two weeks.
In a separate article, the Times reported Friday that public health officials had isolated a homeless person who may have been infected.
Garcetti reportedly emphasized that the wealthy — “those of us who were housed” — had “contracted the virus first.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.