Olmsted County launches new protocols to help the homeless isolate during the pandemic

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 6:32 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – New Isolating protocols have been put in place to help Rochester’s homeless population who are testing positive for COVID-19.

The protocols have been in place for two weeks now.

Olmsted County tells us that sub-zero temperatures and an increased number of COVID-19 cases are what prompted the decision to create this three-phase isolation plan for the county’s homeless population that have been affected by COVID-19.

“When Omicron came on, it over took the numbers we could utilize at our phase one facility,” Olmsted County Housing Director Dan Dunn said. “Previously when that occurred, we used the Mayo Civic Center as kind of that back up site, well that’s not available right now and so that required us to come up with a different plan.”

Olmsted County, Rochester Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota partnered together to ensure that Rochester’s homeless population had a safe place to recover from COVID-19.

People gathering at The Landing
People gathering at The Landing(KTTC)

“The need was simply because we wanted to be prepared if and when this population had higher numbers of COVID and we didn’t have the ability to keep them safe or well, or not to infect others,” Rochester Salvation Army Program & Services Officer Major Lisa Mueller said.

The plan provides testing for those showing symptoms and shelter for those who are sick with COVID-19.

“We’re seeing our highest numbers of COVID just across Olmsted County and that’s no different with our homeless population,” Dunn said. “They’re just a representative sample of Olmsted County, so we have to have the tools in place to be able to provide that care for people who are ill that just don’t have a place to care for themselves.”

The county says it will continue to use this plan throughout the remainder of the pandemic.

“We knew that we needed to be one step ahead of this instead of reacting if, for instance, we were going to have an outbreak or a percentage that was going to be harder than any of us could manage,” Mueller said. “So I think it’s been remarkably helpful and I think people are appreciative of having a safe place to go.”

As of Friday, the county says it is teetering between phase one and phase two.

For anyone who may not recall:

Phase one is when there are up to three people in isolation, they are housed at Olmsted County’s supportive housing facility.

Phase two is when up to nine people in isolation and the Rochester community warming center turns the women’s section into an isolation space.

Phase three is when 10 or more people need to isolate, the entire Rochester Community Warming Center will transition into an isolation center. Healthy individuals would temporarily transition to the Rochester Salvation Army.

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