Coronavirus News: 23 deaths, 421 positive COVID-19 cases among NYC homeless population

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- While most of New York remains indoors, there are thousands of people who find social distancing nearly impossible. They live dormitory-style in the city's homeless shelters that have become petri dishes for coronavirus.

To date there have been 421 positive cases. 23 homeless New Yorkers have died.

"As our City confronts this virus, we are marshalling every tool and resource at our disposal to meet this moment and protect the New Yorkers who we serve," the NYC Dept. of Social Services said in a statement.

What passes for a safety net in ordinary times - asking pedestrians for loose change, public bathrooms, soup kitchens - is largely unavailable amid the pandemic, and the nightly shelter population has swelled.

To reduce density, the city has spent about $200 per night to rent hotel rooms where symptomatic homeless people can be isolated.

"6,000 single New Yorkers, meaning single adults, will be in hotels, not traditional homeless shelters," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Those who will be prioritized across our shelter system for transfer to hotels, will include seniors, will include, of course, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, or who tested positive for COVID-19."

To limit gatherings shelters are now staggering meal times. They're also waiving a rule that required residents to leave during cleanings to discourage them from going outside and returning potentially exposed.

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