Homeless shelter back in operation after worker tested positive for COVID-19, facility sanitized

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO – A St. Louis County shelter set up to protect the homeless from COVID-19 has been exposed to the virus.

The shelter was even shut down briefly, an official said.  

The North County Recreation Center has become a homeless shelter in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is open again.

Fox 2/News 11 has confirmed that in the past 10 days to 2 weeks, a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.

“We had a staff member who helped to operate one of our shelters who did test positive.   Out of an abundance of caution we tested all individuals at that center, removed those individuals for a night, cleaned the facility,” said Dr. Yuself Scoggin of the St. Louis County Department of Human Services.

He oversees homeless services for St. Louis County.

The 48-bed shelter set up in the rec center gym was closed for about 24 hours for disinfecting and for COVID-19 testing, he said.  A total of 14 staff and homeless were tested and isolated.  All tested negative and the shelter reopened, Dr. Scoggin said.

The St. Louis area’s unsheltered residents have presented special concerns during the pandemic about their exposure to Coronavirus and their potential to spread it with contact tracing being problematic.    

City of St. Louis authorities just removed a homeless camp of about 100 tents downtown, citing social distancing and Covid-19 concerns: offering shelter and testing for those at the camp.

Social distancing at North County Recreation Center goes well beyond CDC guidelines with cots 10 feet apart side-to-side, 20 feet head-to-head.

The person who tested positive at the center worked for the Salvation Army and was at the center only briefly, but this was no time to take chances.

“Whether it was 15 minutes or 20 hours we just felt it was incumbent upon us to take that additional precaution … then we returned to normal services to make sure everyone was stable and housed.”

There was a second brief evacuation here a few days ago but that was for a storm-related power outage.

The worker who tested positive was exposed somewhere else, never showed symptoms, and is doing well.

There were 9 people staying at the center Wednesday, with more expected.

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