Editor's note: A previous version of the story incorrectly said that the isolation shelter was set up by the Springs Rescue Mission. The isolation shelter was created by the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the Continuum of Care.
Springs Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in Colorado Springs, reported its first outbreak of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to a news release.
The outbreak began Oct. 25 among among staff and residents of the shelter's New Life program, a residential addiction recovery program for men, the release said. Fifteen people have tested positive for the virus, and another is presumed positive and is waiting for test results. More cases among the homeless population could appear in coming days.
The outbreak comes as cases of COVID-19 have reached an all-time high around the state and country.
The homeless population is a demographic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify as particularly vulnerable.
“We knew that as cases began sweeping the nation, it would be only a matter of time before we started seeing positives,” the nonprofit's CEO Jack Briggs said in the release. “We take this very seriously and will continue to do everything we can to keep our city’s most vulnerable men and women healthy, safe and sheltered.”
To combat the spread of the virus among people experiencing homelessness, the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the Continuum of Care created an “isolation shelter” at City Auditorium in downtown Colorado Springs where people experiencing homelessness who are symptomatic or have tested positive for the virus, can find safe shelter in which to quarantine and get medical attention, the release said.
Since opening the isolation shelter in mid-March, 196 people have stayed there, 74 of whom were referred by the Springs Rescue Mission. Among the 196 people who stayed at the isolation shelter, 54 tested positive for COVID-19, city officials said.
The Springs Rescue Mission's safety measures include health screenings before entering any shelter, access to masks, increased cleaning and head-to-toe sleeping arrangements. The Springs Rescue Mission also said it is working with local health officials and community partners to prevent the spread of the virus.
"Since the pandemic reached Colorado Springs in March, Springs Rescue Mission has balanced the risk of infection with the urgent need for homeless services,” Briggs said.
“That balance became even more difficult when winter began. But we’re dedicated to figuring out what that balance is — how we can keep homeless individuals sheltered but also safe from the spread of COVID-19.”