Newark begins testing homeless population for coronavirus

Kimberly Dole
May 04, 2020 - 1:29 pm
coronavirus NJ

SIPA

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NEWARK, N.J. (1010 WINS) -- Newark began testing its homeless population for coronavirus on Monday and will quarantine anyone whose test results come back positive. 

Testing will be held at an airport hotel after Mayor Ras Baraka's invested $1 million in rapid, short-term housing the city's homeless residents.

"This was a critical part of our strategy," Baraka said. "We had to get our residents without addresses off the street and inside for their own safety and the safety of others. We were able to encourage many of them to come indoors, and today we start testing those who have so far been asymptomatic, to gather more data about how this disease has spread."

There are accommodations ready for anyone needing to be quarantined. 

All 182 residents at the hotel will be offered testing and will begin testing at another homeless shelter Wednesday.

Eventually, residents at all 21 shelters will be offered tests.

The city's Department of Health and Wellness Community will be administering the tests under the direction of Dr. Mark Wade, the head of the department.

According to Dr. Wade, there are about 2,200 homeless in Newark with 1,700 of whom have been sheltered daily.

"I think we have collectively been successful in helping these residents without addresses to understand the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis and are getting them to safety, which is not always an easy thing to do," Dr. Wade said. "This has been a novel, life-saving approach and I don't know of another major city in the country that has done this."

A less intrusive nasal swabbing method will be utilized for testing and anyone who tests positive will be quarantined for 14 days under medical supervision unless hospitalization is required.

They will be able to return to their original shelters once the two-week quarantine ends.

The city's Contact Tracing Task Force work will handle new cases from the homeless testing, to try to follow the patterns of where they have been and with whom they have had contact, according to Dr. Wade.

"This is what we need to truly understand this disease, how it is spread and what we must continue to do to stop it," Baraka said. "Contract tracing is one of the most important weapons we have."