Salt Lake County is renting out an entire hotel for the next two weeks to house asymptomatic people — who are older than 60 or who have underlying health conditions — and were staying at homeless shelters.
The idea is to increase social distancing for people who are at an increased risk for complications due to COVID-19. The hotel can hold around 130 people, and the lease could be extended beyond the next two weeks if needed.
“These individuals are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable within our homeless community,” Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a statement. “It is imperative we do whatever we can to lessen the chances of COVID-19 impacting their lives. We appreciate the hotel operator working with us to provide this extra layer of protection for our highest risk clients.”
People experiencing homelessness began moving into the hotel Friday and will continue to do so over the next few days, according to Salt Lake County.
Case managers, security, and mental health resources will also be available at the hotel.
The county declined to disclose the location and how much it paid to lease the hotel, but a spokeswoman said it was below market rate and they expect all program expenses to be reimbursed by federal COVID-19 aid.
Some people will share rooms, according to David Litvack, a senior policy advisor for Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who is helping the county coordinate its COVID-19 homelessness response. Litvack said they are also working to identify who will be in shared rooms.
“That will be a part of the intake process and ensuring that we have the right individuals in the right rooms,” Litvack said. “Part of that is really relying on the expertise of the service providers, understanding who would succeed with a roommate and where that may not be the best option.”
Litvack said around 25 people from the Sugarhouse Temporary Shelter will also be transferred to the hotel. That shelter is scheduled to close Wednesday, as originally was planned when it opened in January.
Two people from the Men’s Resource Center in South Salt Lake have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in a county isolation facility. The shelter is not accepting any new clients for now, and Litvack said all current clients are being tested for COVID-19.
Inside other shelters, Litvack said many people are sleeping three feet apart, about half the recommended distance for social distancing meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The shelters have asked people to sleep in opposite directions, and are providing cleaning materials as well as instructing people on how to help prevent spread, Litvack added.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson