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New York says none of its homeless tested positive for COVID-19, but those figures likely don't tell whole story

Posted at 12:54 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 12:54:47-04

NEW YORK CITY — Peter Tobin said he's been homeless, on and off the streets of New York City, for the last six months.

"It's pretty difficult because a lot of people are sick," he said. "With the corona stuff going on, everything is sort of, like, delayed. It takes a lot longer of a process than normal to get services to, you know, get off the street and into an apartment."

If the statistics from New York City are to be believed, the city's street homeless population is doing extraordinarily well in warding off coronavirus infections. That's despite living in unsanitary conditions with no regular access to disinfectants, masks and gloves — let alone a warm bed in which to sleep.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services said they've only had to refer a dozen homeless individuals to get medical care for COVID-19.

"As of April 22, DHS outreach teams have conducted more than 16,000 engagements on the topic of COVID-19, including surveying clients in each of those engagements regarding whether they are feeling any symptoms," the spokesperson said in a statement. "As a result, those outreach teams have made 12 referrals to care."

"At this time, these referrals have not resulted in any positive cases."

That's right — not one recorded COVID-19 case among the city's entire street homeless population typically totals between three and four thousand people. It's likely higher when considering the people who refuse to be counted.

"I don't need no help. I'm homeless," said homeless New Yorker Troy Walker.

Despite the city's count, it may never be clear just how bad COVID-19 is affecting New York City's street homeless population.

This story was originally published by Jay Dow on WPIX in New York City.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering