COVID-19 and Homelessness

Published By: Shafiqul Bhuiya

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As many states in the U.S. began to remove COVID-19 restrictions and attempt to return to a sense of normalcy, things were starting to look up. However, there has recently been a bump in the road to recovery. Lately, there has been a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States. As of July 30th 2021, the 7-day moving average of daily new cases has seen a 64.1% increase from the previous 7-day moving average, increasing from 40,597 to 66,606 daily reported cases. The number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 has also seen an increase, moving from a 7-day average of 3,742 to 5,475 daily admissions, a 46.3% increase. Finally, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 has seen a similar rise, with a 33.3% increase in the same time period; the 7-day average rising from 222 to 296 deaths (1).

The drastic increase in these metrics has been attributed to the new variant that was first observed in India, the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, which is a more contagious version of the COVID-19 virus according to the CDC (1). The multiple vaccines that have been developed by varying biotech companies show to be effective in protecting individuals from COVID-19 as well as preventing severe illness (2). Some of the vaccines have also been shown to be effective against the delta variant. A study involving the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines displayed effectiveness against the delta variant after the completion of both doses (3). While research shows that the vaccine is an effective preventative measure against COVID-19, it is not full proof. Data shows that, while it is unlikely, individuals with the vaccine can still get sick with COVID-19. These so-called “Breakthrough Cases” of the virus in vaccinated people, show that they may carry just as much virus as unvaccinated individuals (4).

This recent surge due to the delta variant can be especially devastating to the homeless population. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homeless individuals are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. This is due to a variety of reasons, which include an inability to adequately social distance in shelters and a lack of access to basic hygienic products (5). Not only are individuals experiencing homelessness at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19, they are also at a greater risk of severe disease. This is due to the fact that many of the individuals that are homeless are older adults or have underlying conditions that may be exacerbated by COVID-19 (6). This risk is only compounded by the increased infectivity of the delta variant.

Even though the homeless population is at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, there are still precautions they may take in order to mitigate the chance of contracting the virus. The CDC recommends the homeless population follow social distancing as much as possible, by avoiding crowded public spaces and public transportation services. They should also continue to practice good hand hygiene whenever possible, and to cover their coughs and sneezes (6).

Additionally, there are measures local and state officials can take in order to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 spread on the homeless population. They can supply single-occupancy hotel rooms for homeless individuals to facilitate social distancing rather than relying on crowded shelters, provide free testing to the homeless population to monitor the spread of the virus, and ensure that the homeless population have access to basic hygiene supplies to mitigate the spread of the virus. Most importantly, they can make the vaccines easily accessible to homeless individuals and shelter staff (5). This support, in conjunction with other programs, can help mitigate the effect of COVID-19 and the delta variant on the homeless population.


  1. “COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 July 2021,
  2. “COVID-19 Vaccines Work.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 May 2021,
  3. Iivo Hetemäki, Sohvi Kääriäinen, Pirjo Alho, Janne Mikkola, Carita Savolainen-Kopra, Niina Ikonen, Hanna Nohynek, Outi Lyytikäinen. (2021) An outbreak caused by the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant (B.1.617.2) in a secondary care hospital in Finland, May 2021. Eurosurveillance 26:30.
  4. Brown CM, Vostok J, Johnson H, et al. Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Infections, Including COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections, Associated with Large Public Gatherings — Barnstable County, Massachusetts, July 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 30 July 2021. DOI: icon.
  5. Coalition for the Homeless. “Housing Is Health Care: Responding to Covid-19 in a Comprehensive and Systemic Way.” Coalition For The Homeless, 18 May 2021,
  6. “Homelessness and COVID-19 FAQS.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Feb. 2021,


About the author
Shafiqul Bhuiya
Shafiqul Bhuiya is a Bangladeshi-American from Bronx, New York. He has graduated with a Masters in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida and aspires to become a Physician Assistant. He is currently working as a Molecular Technologist in Infectious Disease testing. Shafiqul enjoys exercising, playing video games, and volunteering with Project Downtown Orlando during his free time. He believes in the power of proper healthcare and the hope it can bring to people in need.

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