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Honolulu facility provides safe shelter for homeless awaiting COVID-19 test results

Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 10:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Public health officials are increasingly concerned about the possibility of COVID-19 infections in crowded homeless camps.

So a new center in Iwilei is stepping up to offer a safe place for homeless people who’ve been discharged from the ER or are too sick to go back on the streets.

Hawaii News Now got an inside tour of the facility.

Medical professionals wear medical suits of armor to protect against coronavirus. They are the first responders of health care for the homelessness.

“These people are most dedicated to serving our most vulnerable in our community,” said Dr. Christina Wang, medical director of the temporary quarantine and isolation center in Iwilei.

They treat homeless individuals who who may be sick with coronavirus.

"These folks are often forgotten about and they often receive a lot of judgment and shame," she said.

The quarantine center is a partnership between the state, city, and several community organizations.

The center screens everyone who comes inside and has served 20 homeless individuals who were waiting for COVID-19 test results.

Patients stay in apartment rooms in isolation waiting for their results.

“I had a fever. I had 102 so they took me into the clinic,” said one patient, Frank, who had a deep cough. He said he wasn’t worried for now.

“So far, it looks good,” he said.

Wang says chronic disease, mental health issues and substance abuse compound the challenge. “It can be a very complicated scenario to present to them about this infectious disease outbreak,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who toured the facility, said the providers at the facility are “putting their lives on the line every day and it will never be forgotten.”

Hours after speaking to HNN, Frank learned his COVID-19 test was negative. Center leaders say so far, none of the patients have tested positive.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.