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The Fullerton Armory’s replacement shelter at Independence Park has become the second Orange County homeless shelter to have an outbreak of coronavirus cases, according to county officials.


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The Fullerton outbreak was about a week ago, and people who tested positive were moved into the county’s motel sheltering program, county Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim said Friday in response to Voice of OC’s questions.

“Programs are working the way they should,” Kim said in a text message. County officials were informed of the outbreak by the shelter, Kim said.

Detailed information on the outbreak was hard to come by Thursday and Friday.

Late Friday, county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said two people tested positive at one shelter in OC and 11 people at another, none of whom were hospitalized. She declined to say which shelter had two cases and which had 11, citing privacy.

The first known shelter outbreak was at the Salvation Army shelter in Anaheim, where two staff members tested positive for coronavirus in late March. It wasn’t clear if more people have since tested positive at the Anaheim shelter.

No homeless people have died as a result of infections at homeless shelters, Nichelson said.

Larry Haynes, whose nonprofit Mercy House is hired by the county to run the Fullerton shelter, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

In recent weeks, OC officials have talked about outbreaks at nursing homes and jails, but not at homeless shelters.

They did not proactively announce the Fullerton outbreak, which was first hinted at when Kim responded to a reporter’s question at a Thursday news conference by saying there have been two outbreaks at Orange County homeless shelters.

There’s been a marked jump in homeless deaths in Orange County in recent weeks, spiking in April to their highest level in years with a similar deadly trend extending into May.

With lab tests still pending for most of the deaths, officials say it’s still too early to know what exactly is causing the spike, and how much of the jump in deaths – if any – is from the coronavirus pandemic.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the outbreak was at the Fullerton Armory shelter, based on statements from the County of Orange. County officials later clarified it was at the armory’s replacement shelter at Independence Park.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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