Mayor Garcetti: L.A. surging Medical Teams to aid fight against COVID-19 among Angelenos experiencing Homelessness

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that the City is surging a deployment of street medical teams to help fight COVID-19 among Angelenos experiencing homelessness.

“We have to get more screening, testing, and treatment to Angelenos who are most vulnerable to this virus,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We’re putting experts and resources in places where they can make an immediate difference and help save lives.”

The deployment includes rapid-results field tests for people showing COVID-19 symptoms, life safety checks, regular health and welfare screenings in high-density encampments, counseling on proper physical distancing, and transportation to new shelters and hotels being brought online to keep Angelenos experiencing homelessness safer inside. Services are being provided by the City of Los Angeles, in partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and the L.A. County Departments of Public Health (DPH) and Health Services (DHS).

“Individuals experiencing homelessness often lack a safe space to self-isolate or practice physical distancing, and many are older adults or suffer from underlying medical conditions that would leave them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Through this coordinated effort by the City and County of Los Angeles and LAHSA, we will make sure no one is forgotten during this public health crisis.”

Deployed out of the City’s Unified Homelessness Response Center, teams — comprised of DHS clinical staff, Los Angeles Fire and Police Department personnel, LAHSA outreach workers, and homeless service providers contracted by the County — will conduct screenings for COVID-19 symptoms among people living in some of the largest encampments. When capacity is scaled up in the coming weeks, the teams will offer rapid-results field tests for COVID-19 and transportation to quarantine and isolation beds for people who test positive for the virus.

Additional resources are being surged to Skid Row — where specialized teams that include County nursing staff and LAHSA outreach workers are being concentrated, and a high-capacity pop-up testing clinic will be established Monday. Operated by the LAFD, the clinic will provide rapid results testing at a site that includes socially-distanced waiting rooms, as well as direct referral and transportation to isolation and quarantine beds.

“While we continue to work on long term housing solutions for our most vulnerable populations, the medical teams will go a long way in getting services on the street where our unhoused neighbors live to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep them safe during this pandemic,” said Councilmember José Huizar. “This outreach approach along with providing more sanitation stations and preventive resources will go a long way in assisting a population that needs all of our assistance through this crisis.”

Throughout the City, these teams — which include health and mental health workers, along with case managers — will deliver hygiene supplies, face coverings, and other necessities to people living on the streets, while working to rapidly bring them indoors.

“People living outside are uniquely vulnerable during this crisis,” said Heidi Marston, Interim Executive Director of LAHSA. “Emergency safety needs have often separated them from the few reliable sources they have for food, showers, phone charging — and, critically, health care. Street tests followed by help getting into quarantine and isolation as necessary will help stop the spread of the disease, and give outreach workers a chance to help people experiencing homelessness develop safety plans and stay connected.”

Mayor Garcetti has previously rolled out a plan to shelter thousands of Angelenos experiencing homelessness, one of several emergency actions to fight the spread of COVID-19. He issued a “Safer at Home” emergency order requiring City of Los Angeles residents to remain in their homes except for the most essential activities — including critical tasks such as securing food and health, safety and medical necessities, as well as caring for children, elder adults, family, friends, and people with disabilities; ordered that workers providing non-medical essential services — and their customers — must wear face coverings while in those work locations; placed restrictions on bars, nightclubs, restaurants, movie theaters, entertainment venues, bowling alleys and arcades, gyms and fitness centers, and Recreation and Parks facilities across L.A.; and put limits on public gatherings in City facilities. 

Any L.A. County resident showing symptoms of COVID-19 can schedule an appointment to get tested by visiting coronavirus.lacity.org/testing. The Los Angeles Fire Department is deploying rapid mobile teams to assist with training for COVID-19 testing at elder care, assisted living, skilled nursing, and other facilities that serve populations most vulnerable to the virus. 

More details and answers to frequently asked questions about the City’s response to COVID-19 can be found at coronavirus.lacity.org.