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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Idaho Coronavirus Cases Rise Among Those Experiencing Homelessness

Tom Michael
Boise State Public Radio

After months of low infection rates, Boise area homeless shelters have seen a recent uptick of coronavirus cases.

Dr. Ted Epperly of Central District Health shared a startling detail at a press conference Monday about the recent spike of COVID-19 infections in Ada County.

"We've seen a 500 percent increase in the number of cases at our homeless shelters in the last week," he said.

That number could go up. Jodi Peterson-Stigers is the executive director of the Interfaith Sanctuary, which manages the isolation center for the city of Boise for those experiencing homelessness who test positive. She says they are still waiting for nearly half of the test results.

"This is a fluid situation," she explained, "because not all the tests have come in. There was a total of about 200 tests that were done in the last few days. Of that, we have 11 positive cases confirmed."

Infections were found at facilities operated by Boise Rescue Mission, led by Reverend Bill Roscoe. He was not immediately available for comment.

Peterson-Stigers said these spikes are happening despite the homeless population taking precautions.


"They understand the risk and they don’t want to get sick," she said, "and they don’t want to get their friends sick. They wear their masks. They help us clean. Some of them, because of mental health, are far more scared than others."


The isolation shelter, within the Cottonwood Suites hotel, houses any of those infected from shelters who won't be treated at a hospital.


At the Interfaith Sanctuary, Peterson-Stigers has been bracing for this possibility for many months.


"We certainly had a lot of time to plan for this," she said. "We felt like this was coming from the beginning, so we're prepared. Interfaith Sanctuary conducts regular tests and provides masks and gloves."

Find Tom Michael on Twitter @Tom2Michael
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