LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Up to 400 homeless people in Los Angeles County could die from the coronavirus pandemic, according to new estimates from researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and two other universities.
The pandemic is likely to kill more than 3,400 homeless people across the nation, with up to 1,200 of those deaths in California and hospitalizations in the state could reach 7,000, with 2,600 in Los Angeles County, researchers found.
The surge in hospitalizations comes “at a time when the health care system is already expecting a surge in needs for hospitalization, intensive care unit beds, and staff and supplies because of the pandemic,” according to the report, which was released Friday.
“As a humanitarian issue and to protect emergency room resources, it is essential that we do everything we can to help homeless people find safety,” wrote co-author Randall Kuhn, associate professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
“To ensure the safety of 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, we need every emergency accommodation resource imaginable -- new shelters with sufficient space to keep people safe, hotels for the most vulnerable, safe parking, and any other options. The scale of these efforts will be huge,” he continued.
The research found an immediate need for 400,000 additional hospital beds across the nation to manage the impact of the pandemic on the homeless, the report said.
“This is a population that's advanced in age and already suffering from poor health, including deteriorated immune systems,” said Thomas Byrne, a co-author of the report and an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Social Work.
“They are vulnerable and at high risk, but for many, it's not too late. Policymakers have a moral imperative to act now and save lives.”
Neither shelter nor health systems in the United States are equipped to meet the needs of the homeless during the pandemic, the researchers found. They urged new emergency housing arrangements and a reconfiguration of current shelters to enforce social distancing.
The report estimates that the additional capacity needed to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus nationwide will cost $11.5 billion.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania also contributed to the report.
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