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Sulzbacher: No positive tests for COVID-19 among Jacksonville’s homeless

The city was one of two selected for a unique testing program focused on homeless populations

Nearly 700 homeless individuals were tested for COVID-19 in early May. None of them tested positive.
Nearly 700 homeless individuals were tested for COVID-19 in early May. None of them tested positive. (Courtesy of Sulzbacher)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some of Jacksonville’s homeless population got a clean bill of health following a recent COVID-19 testing drive aimed at screening every homeless individual in the city, Sulzbacher announced Wednesday.

Tests were provided at every Jacksonville homeless shelter along with two pop-up locations during the week of May 4, according to the nonprofit organization. None of the 679 individuals screened as part of the effort tested positive for the disease, which is caused by novel coronavirus.

Jacksonville was one of two cities selected by Quest Diagnostics for the program. The other city, Phoenix, confirmed the first known case among its homeless population May 8, according to the Arizona Republic.

The effort was made possible by a partnership with Quest and Community Solutions, a nonprofit that seeks to eliminate homelessness. Sulzbacher partnered with UF Health Jacksonville to test individuals at its facilities as well as City Rescue Mission, Clara White Mission, Trinity Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and Hubbard House.

“All tested individuals did not have COVID-19. Everyone was negative," said Eileen Briggs, chief development officer for Sulzbacher, a local organization that provides resources and support to the homeless population.

Though they weren’t needed, the program included two pop-up “urban rest stops” for people to isolate and keep a safe social distance in case any of them tested positive for COVID-19.

Both Sulzbacher and UF Health intend to use the data collected through the effort to publish research on the subject. Already, the initiative has been shared in national circles including COVID-19 crisis response calls.