October 9, 2020

City of Albuquerque shelter reports 17 cases of COVID-19

Andy Lyman

Albuquerque City Hall

The West Side Emergency Housing Center reported 17 cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

The individuals who tested positive for the disease are in isolation and receiving medical care for their symptoms, according to the City of Albuquerque, which issued a news release late Thursday afternoon.

The shelter houses about 400 individuals each night, according to the release, but it can house up to 450 people. Until 2019 the shelter only housed people during the winter months, but Mayor Tim Keller converted it into a year-round facility. Though it remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for families during the public health emergency, the shelter is not currently accepting new residents and transportation to the facility has been suspended, according to the release.

The news release did not state whether the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 are staff or residents of the shelter.

Prior to Thursday, the shelter had fewer than 20 cases of COVID-19 in total, according to the release. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has estimated that 649 sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness would become infected with COVID-19 in Bernalillo County, according to the release.

The city of Albuquerque began implementing protocols to check for the disease among the residents seeking shelter as a part of its in-take process in March, shortly after the pandemic began. The shelter is near the Double Eagle Airport.

Related: Albuquerque working on strategy to protect homeless from coronavirus

Roger Ebner, the City of Albuquerque director of the Office of Emergency Management, said his office wishes the individuals “swift recovery.”

“Thanks to the work of our staff and our partners early on in the pandemic, we had the appropriate processes in place to quickly identify these individuals, isolate them, and provide them with medical attention. We will continue to be diligent with contact tracing efforts to help minimize the spread of the virus. We are grateful that the number of cases in the homeless population have remained far lower here than in other cities, as well as far lower than predicted by national experts,” Ebner said through the release.