City officials working to prevent spread of COVID-19 among homeless population

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Efforts are being made to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus among Jacksonville’s homeless population by asking them to keep a distance from each other.

But despite those efforts, News4Jax has seen many people who are homeless gathering together in downtown Jacksonville. While it’s not illegal to gather, it still goes against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of social distancing.

City officials told News4Jax they have done everything possible to educate the more than 1,000 homeless people living in Jacksonville about COVID-19 and how to protect themselves through social distancing, but they also said many people are simply ignoring what they are being told.

The mayor’s office released a statement saying:

"We are currently working on ways to add additional, temporary gathering spaces for homeless that can still follow social distancing protocols. We should have more information about this in the coming days.

“We are also working on securing more hotel vouchers to get more of the homeless into hotels during this time and off the streets.”

The Florida Department of Health said it’s also concerned about this issue because, although those who are homeless may not have left the country in recent weeks, they are still vulnerable to COVID-19. The department released a statement that says:

“The homeless population is vulnerable to contagious viruses. We’ve recently seen this with the Hepatitis A virus. To prevent infection most of us understand to practice handwashing and social distancing, but for a person experiencing homelessness, prevention is a challenge because they do not always have access to clean living conditions and soap and water for handwashing. Also, they do not always have the option to choose where they sleep or who they sleep by.”

A city spokesperson also told News4Jax the city is trying to set up COVID-19 testing site for the homeless as the coronavirus continues to spread.

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