PHOENIX - Sonora Quest Laboratories is working with local and national nonprofits and Maricopa County to test 300 members of the homeless community for the virus that causes COVID-19.
The national nonprofit Community Solutions, which supports local efforts to ease homelessness, said this week that the Arizona diagnostic testing firm had donated the tests and the healthcare provider Circle the City is administering them. Other local nonprofit groups are helping transport people for testing and trying to help them find permanent housing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged testing for people in homeless shelters, noting their higher incidence of chronic disease.
Circle the City has not said how many positive tests it had seen. The first known COVID-19 case among the homeless community in greater Phoenix was reported two weeks ago.
Maricopa County officials say that on any given night about 7,400 people in the county report they are experiencing homelessness. Of those, about half are in shelters.
But public health workers say people being tested don’t always reveal their housing circumstances, which means that the number of homeless people testing positive is likely underestimated.
Flagstaff Shelter Services in northern Arizona earlier this month said 20 people, including two staff members, had tested positive at its facility.
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
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On CoronavirusNOW.com, you'll find extensive coverage about COVID-19, including breaking news from around the country, exclusive interviews with health officials, and informative content from a variety of public health resources.
- Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers
- Coronavirus: Symptoms, testing and how to prepare amid growing COVID-19 outbreak
- How coronavirus differs from flu: Symptoms to watch for
Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu.
Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough, and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or heart conditions.
Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.
To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.
And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.