As coronavirus cases spike again in the US, residents are being encouraged to once again hunker down in their homes, but what if you don’t have a home to shelter in? There is a 25 percent covid infection rate among homeless Americans, but one state stands out as an outlier: Vermont. The state has an infection rate of less than one percent among homeless residents, but caring for the homeless population is just one cog in the state’s comprehensive virus response.
Back in March, state officials entered into contracts with local motels to give housing to the state’s homeless population and make up for some of the motels’ lost income. The government didn’t stop with housing for the homeless; they designed an entire pandemic response focused on particularly vulnerable populations. In addition to funding the motel program, the state also gave personal protection equipment to nonprofits and shelters that were continuing to work and partnered with a health clinic organized by students at Dartmouth University’s medical school to offer medical resources to homeless individuals.
They also offer hazard pay to all essential workers making less than $25 per hour, a measure that is helping 35,000 frontline workers. They are even considering $1,000 stipends for individuals who have to self isolate due to virus exposure. For particularly vulnerable populations, the state has set up pop-up testing facilities to bring the testing to residents, rather than vice versa.
To stem the outbreak in retirement homes, the state put in place testing and quarantine measures for all new residents moving in. Until this recent spike, the state had only had two total outbreaks in retirement homes. With all these precautions in place, the state was able to not only greatly reduce their number of cases, but also implement one of the earliest stay-at-home orders while still supporting residents financially.
At a time when many states are scrambling to keep up with rising cases, Vermont is an optimistic reminder that targeted containment strategies are effective in managing the virus. Hopefully, the state’s success will encourage others to adopt similar solutions.