More than 50 new COVID-19 cases reported at convention center shelter

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SAN DIEGO — Testing Saturday revealed 55 more cases of COVID-19 among clients and staff members at the emergency homeless shelter operating in the San Diego Convention Center.

The new rash of cases, which included people who were not experiencing symptoms at the time, came as the pandemic worsens across the country, and Southern California slips into another stay-at-home order in hopes of keeping hospitals from getting overwhelmed with patients.

Staff who tested positive have been notified and will stay at home while they monitor their symptoms, and clients of the shelter who tested positive are being transported to alternative city sites to quarantine, a spokesperson said.

“The regional agencies responsible for Operation Shelter to Home have long planned for this possibility and immediately implemented pre-established procedures to isolate and treat anyone who tested positive,” a city statement read.

“County and service provider staff are notifying all clients who tested positive and will facilitate transportation to a local hotel managed by the County of San Diego for public health use. Staff who tested positive were notified and advised to stay home per protocols. Positive individuals will be kept off-site until it is deemed safe for them to return to the shelter.”

The statement added that public health investigators will now try to determine if anyone else working or temporarily staying at the convention center has been infected.

Before Saturday, public health officials had gone months without reporting any major outbreaks at the convention center. Prior to the latest round of testing, there had been fewer than 30 positive results across nine months of operation, city statistics show.

The temporary shelter first opened its doors in April in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus among people experiencing homelessness in San Diego. It currently houses around 900 people per day, and sheltered a peak of about 1,300 people daily, according to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

A project called Operation Shelter to Home, which works to ensure people staying at the convention center would not return to the streets after the shelter closes, has resulted in more than 1,100 people finding long-term or permanent housing, according to the city.

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