SANTA ROSA (CBS SF/BCN) — After a rise in COVID-19 cases among the homeless community, Sonoma County is reopening an alternative care site to expand its capacity to isolate individuals who test positive.

On Tuesday, the county reported seven new positive cases at the Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter in Santa Rosa, bringing the shelter to 90 confirmed positive cases, 153 potential exposure and nine hospitalizations, of which four individuals have been released.

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Though not yet confirmed through testing, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services suspects this rise in cases is due to the Delta variant — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say is more transmissible and potentially less responsive to vaccines. Thirty-two of the shelter’s confirmed positive cases were fully vaccinated individuals.

“This outbreak is a stark reminder that the virus is still very active in our community particularly within congregate settings and among unvaccinated populations,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s health officer. “But it’s also a reminder that while the vaccine does provide excellent protection against the worst outcomes such as hospitalization and death, it doesn’t necessarily prevent someone from contracting the virus, particularly if they’re living in close quarters with unvaccinated individuals. The best protection we have against further outbreaks like this is to get more people vaccinated.”

The shelter first became aware of potential exposure on July 2, after which it closed to new intakes and began regularly testing its residents and staff. While some positive residents are being isolated at an annex to the shelter, Sonoma County has also reopened an alternative care site at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg. The site previously operated for over a year before closing in late June and is now expected to stay open for at least 30 days.

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Up to 60 residents can be isolated at the site, where they will have 24-hour access to an onsite physician.

The rise in cases among the homeless community mirrors an overall rise in COVID-19 cases in Sonoma County. As of Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health listed Sonoma County’s case rate as 8.1 cases per day per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

Last week, the county encouraged all residents — regardless of vaccination status — to wear a mask indoors to fight the spread of the Delta variant.

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