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By now you probably know to stay home if you are sick. It’s boring advice, yes, but everyone is concerned about the novel coronavirus, so the recommendation is critical to preventing the spread of whatever you may have. Another recommendation is to constantly wash your hands.

What if someone doesn’t regularly have access to a restroom where they can wash their hands? What happens if someone is unsheltered and it’s just not an option to self-quarantine? 

Those who work with people experiencing homelessness are constantly thinking about this. People at a higher risk of getting seriously sick from the illness, COVID-19, are older or have an underlying chronic illness and a weakened immune system. This defines a lot of the homeless population. 

The Director of the Department of Human Services, Laura Zeilinger, met with groups that work with unsheltered individuals on Tuesday to review preparedness plans. Right now D.C. remains at a low risk of community spread of COVID-19, say government officials, so it’s about planning for the worst and stressing hygiene etiquette in the interim. 

“How we normally would react to somebody who might have any kind of cough, cold, or virus that may be contagious, is how we are reacting to them today,” said Zeilinger at the meeting with the Interagency Council on Homelessness, as reported by Street Sense.  

A new policy beginning Wednesday for homeless shelters and other congregate settings is that they will offer an individual a medical mask should they cough. Healthy people gain nothing from wearing a mask, but it is an alternative for people who forget to cough into their elbow. It reinforces the concept and prevents the spread of any illness that can be transmitted through the air by small droplets.     

“We are first and foremost trying to prevent the transmission of any kind of infectious disease that’s airborne. Mostly we are thinking in the winter months of the common colds and influenza virus,” says Unity Health Care’s Dr. Catherine Crosland, who was at the meeting. “Masks in a shelter are not the COVID-19 strategy,” she adds. Crosland says that the public shouldn’t assume that just because someone is wearing a mask that they have been tested for COVID-19, suggesting we shouldn’t stigmatize people with these masks. 

No one should be denied shelter for coughing, so if that is happening, DHS wants to know about it. Zeilinger also says quarantine spaces are available for those who can’t “just stay home.” The D.C. government is making arrangements for people who live in congregate settings if they need to self-quarantine. 

The number one way to protect everyone against COVID-19 is to maintain proper hygiene etiquette. This is why organizations that work with individuals experiencing homelessness are passing out hand sanitizer. Jesse Rabinowitz, advocacy and campaign manager with Miriam’s Kitchen, called on the public to donate hand sanitizer to homeless outreach agencies on Twitter—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? Email agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)  

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

  • COVID-19 Updates:

    • As of March 10, 39 residents have been tested for COVID-19. Four have tested positive. [GOV]

    • Rev. Tim Cole, D.C.’s first patient to test positive, writes churchgoers to say he’s still at the hospital but is on the road to recovery. [Twitter]

    • Episcopal Diocese of Washington has changed several of its policies after D.C. confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19, including suspending the use of wine during Communion. [RNS]

    • Here’s a list of schools that changed schedules. [WTOP

    • The Trump administration wants hundreds of thousands of federal workers to be prepared to telework full time. [Post]

  • Alexandria wants to replace public housing with mixed-income housing. [WBJ]

  • On Wednesday’s Kojo Nnamdi Show: What can and is being done to curb gun violence in D.C.? [WAMU]

  • A man who went viral on social media for riding a horse through northeast D.C. says he did it for the kids. [DCist]

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • D.C. wins lawsuit against sign company in the middle of Jack Evans’ scandal. [Post

  • Evans’ ex-wife contributed to the campaign of his opponent Patrick Kennedy. [OCF]

  • At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman endorses candidates in Wards 2 and 8. [Twitter]

  • Couple sues D.C. over speed camera ticket. [WAMU]

  • Virginia Rep. Don Beyeris self-quarantined after dining in D.C. with a person who has the disease. [ARLnow]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes(tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Behold the 1,237-cup beer snake that took over a DC Defenders game. [WCP]

  • There’s a new hot chicken sandwich worth chasing down. [Post]

  • A case for ordering beer with breakfast. [Eater]

ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Greed doesn’t have enough bite. [WCP]

  • Meet Encore, a new theater company based in Takoma Park. [DC Theatre Scene]

  • The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum acquires local photographer Joseph Young’s photos highlighting gentrification. [DCist]

SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Bradley Beal once again saved the Wizards from an embarrassing loss, scoring 40 points as the team rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat the Knicks, 122-115. [AP

  • Because of injuries and transfers, Georgetown men’s basketball has turned to former players to fill out practice. [Post]

  • Local road races are taking precautionary steps in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. [RunWashington]

CITY LIGHTS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full To Do This Week newsletter here. Tips? esarappo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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