COVID-19 Homelessness Medicine Seattle

Some Notes Related to COVID-19.

Some notes:[1. Personal notes that reflect my own opinions, not those of my employer!]

To my knowledge, as of this writing, no individual staying in our shelter or housing programs has tested positive for COVID-19. (Note: Only a fraction of them have been tested.) This continues to boggle my mind. There may come a time very soon when I will look back on this post and think, “Well, that was quaint.”

I received a phone call from a medical epidemiologist this afternoon. Among other things, he said that his job is “to get swabs into people’s noses”. I won’t lie: I had to stifle a laugh.

The medical epidemiologist also shared that there is apparently a shortage of “viral media”, though he didn’t want to “get into the sordid details” about that. My secret source commented that the cause of the shortage of viral media is a shortage of bovine serum albumin. Holy cow.

I haven’t talked so much about nasal anatomy and swabs in my life, even as a medical student learning anatomy. The FDA has apparently approved self-swabs for COVID-19 testing, which include sampling from the anterior nares (nose picking) and mid-turbinates, both of which are easier to access than the nasopharyngeal region (the experience of which has been described as “brain tickling” or a “brain biopsy”). Supplies are limited, though, and we don’t know how to access them.

Homeless shelters and other congregate settings are the lowest priority to receive personal protective equipment (PPE). The only way these settings rise in priority is if there is a confirmed case. Thus, volunteers have made cloth face masks for PPE. It’s wonderful and terrible at the same time.

With Washington State’s “stay home, stay healthy” order, most of the people now on the streets are pushing overflowing carts, wearing soiled blankets, carrying stuffed trash bags, and carrying broken backpacks because they have no homes in which to stay. It is hard to witness this.

I appreciated Ed Yong’s article about How the Pandemic Will End. You may, too.