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COVID-19 cases surging among the homeless, nearly tripling in two weeks

The virus is infecting the homeless at an alarming rate. Circle the City's COVID-19 isolation hotel now seeing triple the amount of patients.

PHOENIX — Lovia Primous has relied on his faith to sustain him during the challenges and pain he's endured throughout the pandemic. 

The 67-year-old Valley native and U.S. Army veteran had a stroke last year which left him unable to work. He lost his apartment and began living out of his Honda Accord.

Many of Lovia's family and friends have also battled COVID-19.  

“Things can change overnight," said Primous, "Your finances; everything depletes with your health.” 

This month he found his way to the Community Resource & Referral Center through the City of Phoenix's Veterans Affairs program and was on his way to temporary housing. But the program requires a COVID-19 test. 

Primous is vaccinated and was asymptomatic but tested positive for the virus. 

"We separate because of the pandemic but it teaches the heart how much we need one another,” said Primous.   

He is currently a patient at Circle the City's COVID-19 isolation hotel at the Extend-a-Suites off the I-17 along with nearly a hundred other people experiencing homelessness and are also COVID-positive. 

Cases surging among the homeless due to the omicron and delta variants 

The Valley nonprofit has partnered with Maricopa County to serve homeless people who've tested positive for the virus. Medical teams have seen cases among patients erupt from 25 on Christmas day to now nearly 100 a week into the new year. 

“If we didn’t have the hotel, these people would be out there on the street trying to recover from this without any help or support and a lot of them wouldn’t make it,” said Circle the City family nurse practitioner, Monte Herron. 

Circle the City has had to increase staffing efforts to manage the spike in cases. Their work is one of passion but the surge does take a toll on both the patients and the team. 

“We have 10 to 12 new intakes (today)," said Herron. "I was up to about 3 a.m. this morning charting.”  

Patients at the hotel are unlikely a realistic account of how many people living on the streets are infected due to testing. Circle the City can house up to 147 patients. 

The Circle the City patients are holding onto hope of a new day beyond COVID-19 and homelessness 

“I got to pray; I got to be strong," said patient Gregory Bolden. "Hopefully things will get better.”  

Bolden is also asymptomatic and is battling bone cancer. 

He was being cared for at CTC's respite center when he tested positive. 

"The Respite Center is like a church and gives us a place of community to talk about getting beyond our current circumstances," said Bolden. 

Lessons learned through the hardships of life  

"You have to keep hope alive," said Lovia. "You have to live every day and enjoy the moments you have; a lot of people do not know how to enjoy the moments." 

Circle the City

Circle the City offers a recuperative medical respite care model where individuals experiencing homelessness can recuperate and receive daily medical care and round-the-clock (24/7) nursing support.

"Circle the City offers four mobile medical units to deliver outreach medical services to some of the most vulnerable in our communities," according to the organization's website. 

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