PHOENIX — It's been three weeks since Arizona Governor Doug Ducey implemented his Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected order to protect the spread of the novel coronavirus to Arizonans.
His stay-at-home order listed exemptions for essential personnel but also, "individuals experiencing homelessness."
According to the United States Interagency Council of Homelessness 2019 point in time count, the Grand Canyon State has more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day.
"These tents are the only thing we have to stay out of the heat and not get exposed to the virus," said Susie, who has lived in the homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix for the last two months. Homeless individuals face many challenges living on the streets including access to health care.
Circle the City is a community health nonprofit dedicated to providing high quality and holistic health care to people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County.
"It's a challenge, and making sure this population is taken care of prevents them from spreading it to the rest of the city," says Dr. Christopher Pexton, the nonprofit's downtown medical director.
CTC has turned the employee parking lot into a temporary medical camp to care for homeless individuals who may test positive for COVID-19.
The nonprofit says they are prepared for COVID-19 negative, positive and what they call "Persons Under Investigation" presenting with symptoms or awaiting test results. Dr. Pexton says Arizona's Department of Public Health donated 100 tests for screening purposes.
CTC's temporary medical isolation tents have the capacity to care for 40 patients while they wait for their test results. If a patient is positive, they are placed in a 10-bed medical isolation ward within the medical respite center. CTC is currently caring for one COVID-19-positive patient.
"There's a lot of sick and elderly people here. If they were to get it, it'd be really hard for people to overcome it," said Pexton. He hopes that CTC's efforts will be a step in preventing Phoenix from becoming another hotspot for the virus, but he also worries if Maricopa County is prepared if there is an outbreak.