COVID-19 Homelessness Nonfiction Public health psychiatry Seattle Systems

Faltering and Failing.

The omicron variant has resulted in a surge of cases here in Seattle-King County:

Our hospitals have not been spared. They, like in other areas, are in a crisis situation:

There are similar surges in Covid cases in homeless shelters and other congregate settings. This, combined with an insufficient number of people who are willing and able to work at isolation and quarantine (I&Q) sites, has led the I&Q sites to limit the number of admissions. The admission criteria now are the most stringent they have been at any point during the pandemic:

What this means in practice is that people living in shelters who are sick with Covid may have nowhere else to go. If they are lucky, they will be able to stay in the shelter. Their only other option may be staying outside in the chill and darkness of January.

Which is worse? Covid infections sweeping through a homeless shelter? Or people exiled outside because they are sick? (They may end up seeking help at an emergency department, all of which are already strained and overburdened.)

To be clear, I do not blame the county for this. Health care workers are fleeing their jobs due to the crush of the pandemic. Everyone is struggling with hiring health care and essential workers.

We cannot look away from the horror of systems faltering and failing. We must witness that the most vulnerable people in our community will bear the greatest brunt of these failures.