Los Angeles is sending medical street teams to help protect homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic that's killed tens of thousands nationwide, city officials said.
In the United States alone, the coronavirus outbreak has left more than 37,000 people dead and sickened nearly 710,000. California is one of the hardest-hit states, with about 30,000 cases of infection and more than 1,000 people killed.
Under the effort that starts Monday, deployed medical teams will focus on people living on the streets and provide them with rapid-results coronavirus tests, regular health and welfare screenings, counseling and transportation to shelters and hotels, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.
Additional resources will be sent to the city's Skid Row, and will include nursing staff, mental health workers and case managers. They'll provide the homeless population there with face coverings and other necessary items while working to take them off the streets, the mayor said.
"We have to get more screening, testing, and treatment to Angelenos who are most vulnerable to this virus," Garcetti said. "We're putting experts and resources in places where they can make an immediate difference and help save lives."
The Los Angeles Fire Department will set up a pop-up testing clinic to deliver fast results. They'll feature physical distancing waiting rooms and provide direct referral and transport to isolation and quarantine areas, he added.
"We're deploying every resource to help people who are most vulnerable and susceptible in this crisis," Garcetti said.
The city has urged hotel and motel owners to participate in Project Roomkey, which will provide a place to stay for high-risk people experiencing homelessness. The state has secured thousands of rooms and is negotiating with additional hotels and motels in counties with significant homeless populations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state's Project Roomkey effort this month, setting an initial goal of securing up to 15,000 rooms to move people off the streets.
"Homeless Californians are incredibly vulnerable to Covid-19 and often have no option to self-isolate or social distance," Newsom said. "By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of Covid-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical health care resources. We're working hard with our county partners to get these hotels up and running as rapidly as possible."
In addition to the hotels and motels, the governor facilitated hundreds of trailers purchased by the state and operated by the local governments to be used in a similar way as Project Roomkey.