DENVER (KDVR) –In Denver, 203 people experiencing homelessness have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to spokesperson Alton Dillard.
Of those 203 cases, 170 have been caught at the National Western Complex and the Denver Coliseum, where health screening is performed before anyone can enter the building.
But Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless warns it’s likely just a matter of time before there’s an outbreak inside.
“We’re not able to test the hundreds of people that could be asymptomatic,” she says. “And we know that one in three people in many shelter systems across the country is carrying this virus, but not showing any symptoms.”
Friday night, 579 guests stayed at the mens only Western Complex.
According to the Denver Rescue Mission, eight staff members have now tested positive, with a handful of others waiting for results.
“It hasn’t impacted our overall operation,” says Nicole Tschetter. “Our team is doing a great job bringing in temporary workers to fill those gaps.”
Across the interstate, the Denver Coliseum has been averaging about 170 women a night.
“We’re trying to protect the ladies inside the shelter as much as we can,” says Mike Sinnett.
Sinnett works for Catholic Charities of Denver, which is running operations at the Coliseum.
So far, he says eight women have tested positive.
“Until this thing runs out, I don’t think we can be overly prepared, or cautious, or guarded.” he says.
Homeless advocates have been pushing for more hotel rooms, saying the congregated setting at the large make-shift shelters won’t withstand an outbreak forever.
The Denver City Council is expected to vote on a $1.9M agreement on Monday with JBK Hotels, which would provide 140 additional hotel rooms to people experiencing homelessness.
“We’re trying to move people out of these congregate settings that are high risk,” says Cathy Alderman. “So I think that is a really smart strategy to prevent spread and extreme health complications among those high-risk individuals that could overwhelm the hospital system.”