Photo illustration of a homeless individual. Photo courtesy of Upsplash.
Photo illustration of a homeless individual. Photo courtesy of Upsplash.

The Open Door Mission confirmed six cases of COVID-19 on Friday, according to a press release sent out by the homeless shelter this afternoon.

The cases were among four staff and two residents. One staff member was hospitalized. In April, President and CEO Candace Gregory said she worried what Open Door Mission would do if COVID-19 got into the facility. With poverty often comes chronic illness and weakened immune systems, especially prevalent among older residents.

“It would go like wildfire through our population,” Gregory said then.

On Monday, Gregory said that fear was still very prevalent. Even with strict sanitizing and social distancing, the virus spread from one to five people in a few days.

“Can you imagine if people were not sanitizing and wearing masks,” she wrote in an email.

The campus, which already had two quarantine areas before the outbreak, recently added a third. The facility now has 39 isolation rooms and 14 quarantine rooms. It also had instituted a 14-day isolation for anyone coming in off the street.

After the tests were confirmed Friday, 30 members of the National Guard tested 84 percent of the staff and residents on campus at 23rd Street East and East Locust Street. The shelter, which has a 917-bed capacity, is now awaiting those results as they prepare more quarantine areas.

Days before the confirmed cases, The Omaha Reader reported shelters were already under immense strain

Annually, Open Door Mission staff gets help from 15,000 different volunteers, President and CEO Candace Gregory said on April 23. To limit spread, volunteers were told to stay home. Instead, staff picked up their duties providing childcare for more than 100 kids in the shelter, scooping potatoes on cafeteria lines as well as keeping the facility sanitized and functional.

Gregory said she hoped and prayed for a return to some normal so that volunteers could come back to help carry the burden. Without them the future she seemed unsustainable.


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Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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