City of Austin taking extra steps to protect elderly, homeless during pandemic

On any given day there are more than two-thousand people sleeping on the streets of Austin. Councilmember Kathie Tovo, who oversees this area of town, knows COVID-19 infecting this group can have devastating effects.

“Many of them do fall into that category of being older but many of them have underlying health conditions that come as a result of being unsheltered,” said Tovo.

As a result of the pandemic, the city announced extra measures they are taking to protect the homeless. Some of these measures are opening five shower access sites, portable toilets and handwashing stations. the news comes amid a positive COVID-19 diagnosis among the homeless.

“Unfortunately as we know there is an individual at the Salvation Army who did test positive,” said Tovo.

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Tovo said providers are working constantly to enforce the social distancing rule among the homeless.

“Service providers and faith-based organizations are doing their best to encourage that kind of social distancing to people seeking help, but it's definitely a challenge,” she said.

Also, the city is taking more steps to protect another vulnerable population, the elderly.

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“Currently we are prioritizing the nursing home residents for testing,” said Dr. Liam Fry, leader of the Austin Public Health Task Force for Nursing Homes.

the city announced Monday they are setting up sites to place nursing home patients who tested positive for the coronavirus.

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“We are looking at 100 beds. One facility has 60 beds and the other would have 40. They are both licensed nursing facilities, one is in Travis and one is in Williamson,” said Fry.

They say this move will provide people a safe place to recover, and also keep other nursing home residents safe.


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