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SARS-CoV-2 Can Spread Rapidly in Homeless Shelters

Two studies demonstrate rapid spread throughout shelters after identification of clusters

THURSDAY, April 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can spread rapidly in homeless shelters, according to two studies published in the April 22 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Farrell A. Tobolowsky, D.O., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues offered testing for SARS-CoV-2 to residents and staff members at three homeless shelters during March 30 to April 1, 2020, after notification of a confirmed COVID-19 case at one of the shelters. The researchers found that 10.5 percent of the 181 persons tested were positive (15 residents and four staff members). Repeat testing was performed on April 7 to 8; additional cases were identified after residents and staff members sought health care. COVID-19 was diagnosed in 35 of 195 residents and eight of 38 staff members overall (18 and 21 percent, respectively).

Emily Mosites, Ph.D., from the CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response, and colleagues performed SARS-CoV-2 testing in five homeless shelters (one in Boston, one in San Francisco, three in Seattle) that had experienced clusters of COVID-19, in 12 shelters in Seattle where a single case in each had been identified, and in two shelters in Atlanta where no known cases had been reported. The researchers found that a high proportion of residents and staff members had positive test results after identification of a cluster (17 and 17 percent in Seattle; 36 and 30 percent in Boston; and 66 and 16 percent in San Francisco, respectively), while prevalence of infection was low in Seattle shelters (5 and 1 percent, respectively) and in Atlanta shelters (4 and 2 percent, respectively).

"Testing all persons can facilitate isolation of those who are infected to minimize ongoing transmission in these settings," Mosites and colleagues write.

Abstract/Full Text - Tobolowsky
Abstract/Full Text - Mosites

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