Study: 21,000 homeless could be hospitalized due to COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to kill more than 3,400 people experiencing homelessness across the United States, according to new estimates from researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Further, COVID-19 could be responsible for hospitalization of an estimated 21,295 people who do not currently have housing, or about 4.3% of the nationwide homeless population, the researchers found in a report finalized this week (PDF). Of those likely to be hospitalized nationwide, nearly 7,200 or more may require critical care.

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In California, those numbers could reach as many as 1,200 deaths (including 400 in Los Angeles County) and 7,000 hospitalizations (2,600 in Los Angeles County), all 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.

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“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,” said co-author Randall Kuhn, associate professor of community health sciences at the Fielding School. “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.”

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