Virginia Beach putting homeless in hotels to blunt virus

Virginia News

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Virginia state government is offering $2.5 million to localities so they can provide shelter to 1,500 homeless people so the spread of the new coronavirus can be curtailed. It’s an idea that Virginia’s largest city has been carrying out recently, with some success.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the emergency funding, which can be used for hotel vouchers, food, cleaning supplies and other items to people lacking housing.

“People experiencing homelessness are more likely to have chronic health conditions that go untreated, and are among the populations most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19,” Northam’s office said in a statement Friday.

Virginia Beach already has been offering more than 45 hotel rooms to homeless individuals for the last two weeks, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported Saturday. Hotel access is focused upon people living on the streets who are older than 58 and those 40 or older with chronic conditions. About 24 people met those qualifications and were placed in hotels. They are provided food as well.

Health officials who toured the city’s center for homeless residents recommended the population be cut in half to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, the newspaper said.

Virginia’s health department said on Saturday that the number of confirmed cases in the state now exceed 2,400, a jump of almost 400 compared to Friday. There are 52 confirmed deaths, compared to 46 on Friday. Nearly 400 people are hospitalized.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause pneumonia or death.

The lodging so far has cost about $50,000 at two hotels, said Andy Friedman, the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Preservation Department director. The costs had been expected to be covered by city emergency funds, but now state and federal money will pay for them, Friedman said.

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