LA County's homeless seeing lower COVID-19 rates than overall population

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- People experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County are testing positive for the coronavirus at rates far lower than the population at large.

The positive rate among LA County's homeless is less than 2%. The county's most recent test positivity rate in general is now 4.6%, though in the past it has gotten close to 10%.

A top health official says fears about rapid spread among those who live in shelters and on the streets did not come true.

A leading homeless advocate believes the low rates are because a majority of the county's homeless live outside.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will spend $600 million to convert hotels and apartment buildings into permanent supportive housing for homeless residents.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, an ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care, questioned whether enough of the region's homeless population is tested to have confidence in that 2% rate.

"If you tested a million people you may get an accurate 10% infection rate," Cardillo said. "But if you only test a small number of homeless people then those numbers could be artificially depressed."

Still, he added, the homeless population remains very vulnerable to the virus.

"I'd be concerned about that because these are highly vulnerable people who don't have access to medical care the way everyone else does. They are living in conditions that make it difficult to fight off any infections. They are at a big disadvantage."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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