State’s largest homeless provider starts screening clients for coronavirus

Updated: Mar. 11, 2020 at 5:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s largest homeless service provider is taking steps to keep coronavirus out of its shelters.

Enhanced screening procedures started last week at the Institute for Human Services. Now, every new client must have their temperature taken and their travel history reviewed before being allowed in.

Terry Slander is homeless and new to IHS.

Before he could get a bed at the men’s facility on Sumner Street, a nurse checked to see if he was showing any symptoms of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Looking at the thermometer she said, “98.5. Perfect,” and then asked some questions. “Any cough? You haven’t traveled anywhere in the past three weeks? Not to China or anywhere else?”

Slander responded by shaking his head, “No.”

“Right now we’re just trying to be proactive. Concern for actual spread is low,” said IHS Health Services Manager Elizabeth Glenn.

The new intake protocol is now in effect at all IHS facilities.

On top of that, nursing students are helping staff keep an eye on the health of current guests.

Connie Mitchell, the non-profit’s executive director, says IHS provides close to 400 people with a place to stay each night.

“Because we’re a congregated shelter they’re much more vulnerable for passing on a communicable disease,” she said.

Signs are plastered on walls and bulletin boards advising residents to wash their hands and avoid close contact with others.

But Mitchell says it’s not just folks in the shelters they’re concerned about.

“We’re also doing observation and surveillance among our outreached people,” said Mitchell. “Because we know people who are on the street generally have lower immunity and really need to be educated about what’s going on because they may not have access to information you would in a shelter.”

After giving Slander a once over, the nurse determined he was not at high risk for COVID-19.

Glenn says so far IHS hasn’t come across anyone who looks like they could have the coronavirus. But they are working on setting aside space just in case they do.

She said, “If we start seeing actual cases we want to definitely have an area of isolation because we don’t want people on the street when they’re sick.”

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