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Plan seeks to address COVID concerns among residents without shelter

Three-phased plan will provide isolation space for people who test positive for COVID-19 while homeless

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ROCHESTER – Below-zero temperatures and an increase in local COVID-19 cases comes with an anticipated need for more isolation options for homeless residents.

“We want to be prepared, so we’ve been meeting proactively with our shelters around our plan for true isolation,” Associate Olmsted Public Health Director Denise Daniels said.

“As you can imagine, we may go from two (infected) people in these shelters to 20 overnight,” she added.

The county announced Thursday it has worked with Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota and the Rochester Salvation Army to enact an isolation plan for residents who are homeless and seeking shelter while also having a confirmed COVID-19 infection.

“We need to take action to help protect those who are healthy, as well as those who have tested positive for COVID-19,” Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn said in announcing the plan. “Making sure we have the resources available for some of our most vulnerable residents is important given the current climate.”

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The approach has three potential phases, based on the number of people requiring isolation.

The initial phase provides up to three individual isolation rooms in the county’s transitional housing facility at 105 N. Broadway Ave. The three rooms were created when the county opened the building in the early months of the pandemic.

If the three rooms are occupied by people testing positive for COVID, the second phase calls for the Rochester Community Warming Center, 200 Fourth St. SE, to provide space for up to six people by using the current women’s section for anyone with COVID.

The men’s section of the nightly center will return to offering co-ed space each evening until the isolation space is not needed.

The third phase would transition the entire warming center to an isolation center, with health people being referred to the Salvation Army at 20 First Ave. NE, which will provide temporary shelter.

Olmsted County employees will staff each of the isolation sites.

Daniels said the plan is needed since space in Mayo Civic Center, which was used during past COVID concerns, is not available, due to booking at the facility.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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