City, shelter leaders prepare for potential COVID-19 outbreak

Local leaders prepare for potential outbreak in southern Arizona
Updated: Mar. 11, 2020 at 9:18 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Homless shelters in southern Arizona are preparing as best as they can in light of the coronavirus.

City and county leaders answered questions from local shelters at the Ward 6 Council Office on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 on how they can prepare for a potential outbreak.

“Shelters are going to see this.” said Dr. Bob England, interim director of the Pima County Health Department.

It's due to the obvious fact that they house a population that is more at risk with access to less resources. It’s why everyone is stepping up to keep things sanitized.

“We spray down everything twice a day, morning and evening,” said Capt. Ellen Oh with the Salvation Army Hospitality House.

While the novel coronavirus continues to spread, they’re implementing new procedures to keep their personnel and patrons safe.

“We educate them to continuously use the sanitizer and when they have to cough they have to cough into their elbow,” Oh said.

Their newest protocol began Wednesday, with taking the temperature of everyone who walks through the doors. Not only for the virus, but for any illness.

"When we see someone who might be infected, with not just coronavirus but even flu, then we would provide some masks for them,” she said.

They stocked up on non-perishable foods but are looking at only a one-month supply for cleaning materials like their Clorox 360 machine.

"We are really in lack of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes,” Oh said.

Despite that — and being surrounded by strangers — resident Patrick Hawkes said he isn’t worried.

“I feel safe here,” Hawkes said. He’s confident in the shelters cleaning abilities, allowing himself to not get overly concerned.

" I haven’t been sneezed on yet. You know, I’d probably run in and put some hand sanitizer and wipe it on my face but I haven’t been put in that situation yet,” he said.

City and county leaders also suggested they only isolate the sick but not quarantine them.

They were also advised to call ahead of time to the hospitals if they want to bring in a sick patron.

There’s still many unknown variables when it comes to how everything will be handled. However, shelter staff won’t sit idle.

“We’re not professional doctors and nurses here we’ll do the best we can,” Oh said.

To help alleviate the spread for those who might not visit the shelters, officials with the City of Tucson announced Wednesday at the meeting that they are actively working on getting hand washing stations installed throughout the city, like at public libraries or places like Jacome Plaza, which is located downtown.

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