Organizations helping the homeless in Phoenix getting more COVID-19 tests

People going through homelessness are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19, with recent studies finding they are twice as likely to end up in the hospital, but there are efforts underway to help the homeless population in Downtown Phoenix.

Things have changed quickly outside the Human Services Campus. A video taken in April shows the tents lining the sidewalk, but by Wednesday, encampments have been moved inside parking lots, surrounded by chain-link fences. From the sky, the encampments appear spaced out, in a social distancing effort.

"It is those more vulnerable individuals that the story isn’t told. How do you connect individuals that don’t have a relationship with a [primary care physician]? [They] have very little, if any, access to healthcare, and they’re one of the more vulnerable of any in the state of Arizona," said Melissa Noble with Sonora Quest Lab.

Noble said Sonora Quest gave 300 COVID-19 tests to Circle the City, a non-profit that provides healthcare to those going through homelessness. Noble said they will provide another 50 tests to make sure they have enough.

"Together, we can solve this problem," said Noble. "We can overcome this, but it’s going to take groups getting together to collaborate and figure out and get the word out."

Officials with Circle the City say before the donation, they only had five tests, so the donation has been a huge help. Currently, the agency says five to 10 people are staying there, and while there have been positive test results, but it’s unclear how many.

Officials with Maricopa County Public Health say they do not publicly identify cases by where people live, whether it is a home, long-term care facility, or the Human Services Campus, due to privacy concerns.

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COVID-19 symptoms

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.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

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.

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.

Additional resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ (In Spanish/En Español)

Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars (In Spanish/En Español)

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