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Ontario study finds people on homeless spectrum hit hard by COVID-19

The study found people on the homeless spectrum are five times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the average person. Continue reading →

Daniel and Allison live on the street and are constantly worried about getting sick.

The pandemic has been particularly tough. They said many people they know have contracted COVID-19 and exposed others to the virus.

“We need hand sanitizer, we need masks, and we need safe supplies to come out to us on a regular basis,” Daniel said. “There’s no cutting corners.”

A recent study released by ICES looked at the effects of the pandemic during the first wave, focusing on people who were recently homeless. The study found this population was over 20 times more likely to be hospitalized, 10 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and five times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the average person.

The numbers are a scary reality Dr. Naheed Dosani confronts everyday. He works as a palliative care physician with those who fall on the homeless spectrum.

“This population was hanging by a thread before, and that thread has snapped,” Dosani said.

Read more: Toronto considering ambitious plan to combat homelessness amid COVID-19 pandemic

The study looked at more than 29,000 people. As the second wave of the pandemic plays out, some analysts say the challenges for those on the homeless spectrum are heightened.

Lucie Richard was the lead research analyst on the project. “Admission to ICU is not only a stepping stone to dying from COVID-19, it’s a highly limited resource generally speaking,” Richard said. “And with the current situation, with beds filling up very quickly, there is going to be additional risk for those who are homeless in the coming months”

The city of Toronto, along with several health partners, runs a recovery site to help those on the homeless spectrum if they get COVID-19.

Read more: Coronavirus: Advocates say Toronto’s homeless face dire situation as support collapses

“Right now we are at a capacity of 100 functionally at our isolation recovery site, we are actively working to go to 150,” Dr. Andrew Bond said. Bond is the medical director of Inner City Health Associates, one of the agencies involved in running the recovery site.

“We do have more physical space to put people, but we need to increase the services to run those spaces.”

Some physicians said given the data, it’s time to get people living on the streets vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Getting the vaccine is not just a light at the end of the tunnel, it is a solution to get this population through this pandemic and it can make a world of a difference,” Dosani said.

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