(NEW YORK) — At least 26 homeless people among the 421 confirmed to have COVID-19 in New York City had died as of Tuesday, city officials said.
“As our city confronts this virus, we are marshaling every tool and resource at our disposal to meet this moment and protect the New Yorkers who we serve,” the New York City Department of Social Services said in a statement.
The news comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new measures to better protect the thousands of homeless people in the city for whom social distancing is extremely difficult.
What passes for a safety net in ordinary times — asking pedestrians for loose change, public bathrooms, soup kitchens — largely has been unavailable as the city fights the pandemic. The nightly shelter population has also swelled, creating additional concerns.
To reduce density, the city has spent about $200 per night to rent hotel rooms in which symptomatic homeless people can be isolated.
At a press conference on Saturday, de Blasio said that “6,000 single New Yorkers, meaning single adults, will be in hotels, not traditional homeless shelters.”
“Those who will be prioritized across our shelter system for transfer to hotels will include seniors, will include, of course, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or who tested positive for COVID-19,” the mayor added.
To limit gatherings, shelters are also now staggering meal times and waiving a rule that required residents to leave during cleanings to discourage them from going outside and potentially exposing themselves to the virus.
New York has the most cases and fatalities in the country, with more than 195,000 confirmed and more than 10,000 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Health. Deaths in New York City alone have exceeded 7,300, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
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