LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As many as 400 people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County could die from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published Friday by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and two other universities
Researchers found that the pandemic will likely kill over 3,400 homeless people across the United States. Up to 1,200 of those deaths could come from California, and over 7,000 homeless people could be hospitalized in the state due to COVID-19.
2,600 of those hospitalizations are likely to occur in L.A. County.
“As a humanitarian issue and to protect emergency room resources, it is essential that we do everything we can to help homeless people find safety,” wrote co-author Randall Kuhn, associate professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
The surge in hospitalizations of the homeless population comes at a time when hospitals are already expecting to be overwhelmed due to the pandemic, according to the report.
“To ensure the safety of 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, we need every emergency accommodation resource imaginable — new shelters with sufficient space to keep people safe, hotels for the most vulnerable, safe parking, and any other options. The scale of these efforts will be huge,” Kuhn continued.
To manage the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population, researchers found a need for 400,000 additional hospital beds nationwide.
“This is a population that’s advanced in age and already suffering from poor health, including deteriorated immune systems,” said Thomas Byrne, a co-author of the report and an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Social Work. “They are vulnerable and at high risk, but for many, it’s not too late. Policymakers have a moral imperative to act now and save lives.”
Researchers urged lawmakers to create new emergency housing arrangements and a restructure current shelters to allow for social distancing among the homeless. The additional response needed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus among those experiencing homelessness would cost about $11.5 billion nationwide, according to the report.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania also contributed to the report.
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