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At least two dozen people in quarantine after person tests positive for COVID-19 at men's resource center for the homeless

Posted at 9:13 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 23:13:44-04

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — Dozens of people have been placed into quarantine since the first documented COVID-19 case was discovered Wednesday in someone staying at the Men's Resource Center for the homeless in South Salt Lake.

The patient is a male over the age of 60 who is now being treated in the hospital.

David Litvack, a senior policy advisor for the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office, said the patient is well-known in the homeless community and that the people who are most likely to have been exposed slept in the same dorm as the patient.

At least 24 people are now under quarantine at an undisclosed location.

None of the people placed under quarantine were employees or staff members of the Men's Resource Center, which is operated by the Road Home.

"The 24 number is based on earlier today. They are all currently asymptomatic," Litvack said on Thursday afternoon. "We do anticipate that number to go up... Maybe another 15-20 individuals or so, possibly."

A spokesperson for Salt Lake County said officials had already made plans to address COVID-19 within the resource center prior to this case.

"Did we expect this to happen? We sure hoped it didn't, but we're not completely surprised that it did," said Katherine Fife, the director of programs and partnerships with Salt Lake County.

Jen Serenko, who said her nephew was about to move from the resource center into transitional housing, found out he was quarantined Thursday morning.

"Who knows how many could have been infected. Who knows how many are infected already that are still there!" Serenko said. "I'm very worried about him... I hope everything turns out alright for him because he does have some underlying medical conditions."

The Men's Resource Center is no longer allowing anyone new to spend the night at the facility until a full investigation is complete, per the recommendations of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Those who are still staying at the resource center are not at any "additional risk for exposure" due to thorough cleaning that began on Wednesday, Litvack said.

"I personally would like to see the homeless people put up in all these empty motel rooms and hotel rooms," Serenko said. "Just like Colorado and California are doing, get these people off the streets!"

Litvack and Fife said getting people into hotel rooms is an idea that has been discussed by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. The community may "start seeing some movement" on that idea within the next couple weeks, Litvack said.