SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Santa Clara County is ramping up its program to help people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed but are struggling to effectively quarantine.
“The county has developed many hotels that we’re able to use. So, the county is proud to be able to offer this to anyone who currently has no place to stay or is at risk of losing their place to stay,” says Dr. Sarah Rudman with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Public Health Department has provided hotel rooms for quarantine to more than a thousand people. According to a spokesperson for the department, they also provided food and rental assistance to more than 1,500 families who have struggled when forced to quarantine.
But public health officials acknowledge the program has not always worked perfectly, occasionally allowing people to slip through the safety net it’s supposed to provide.
Edwin Vasquez is homeless and lives in a sprawling encampment along Coyote Creek near downtown San Jose. He was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and treated at a local hospital. Edwin’s wife said he was discharged from the hospital and returned initially to the encampment where his condition worsened.
She contacted homeless advocates Friday desperate for help. They in turn reached out to the county, who eventually placed Edwin in a hotel to recuperate and quarantine.
“He got discharged back into the camp which I think is crazy,” says Pastor Scott Wagers who provides food, clothing and blankets to the residents of Edwin’s camp.
Wagers said Edwin should have been transferred directly to a hotel and entire camp tested as a precaution.
“The mystifying part how did he get from the hospital back to camp. Why didn’t they intervene then? Who did he talk to? How did he fall between the cracks essentially?” asks Wagers. He said discharging Edwin back onto the street endangered his recovery and the public’s health.
Public health officials acknowledge that help should have come sooner with a seamless transition from the hospital to a hotel room for quarantine.
“We also have systems in place to identify people when they are sick and don’t have a place to go. If they’re leaving the hospital, get them to one of those hotel rooms as seamlessly as possible,” said Rudman.