Rapid response in homeless shelters can help prevent spread of COVID-19; how to protect older adults at home; latest on antibody testing


New research details how a rapid response in homeless shelters by public health experts can help protect shelter clients and staff from COVID-19. Also, read about tips for keeping multigenerational families healthy at home.


By responding rapidly to clusters of illness in homeless shelters, Public Health—Seattle & King County is establishing a national model for containing the spread of COVID-19 illness.

Two research articles published today, April 22, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe how multi-disciplinary teams deployed by Public Health are helping homeless shelters to protect their residents and staff.

Public Health deploys rapid response teams to homeless service sites where there is a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 or a suspected cluster based on people with symptoms of COVID-19. These multi-disciplinary teams assess the level of current illness, assess the risk of further contagion, and connect service providers and residents with resources to identify illness and prevent further spread.

Each of these teams has an environmental health staff person who assesses the facility and provides recommendations to reduce risk, such as procedures to support adequate social distancing and infection control measures. In addition, clinical team members provide education on COVID-19, screen residents and staff for symptoms, facilitate testing of exposed residents and staff, provide access to resources such as thermometers and surgical masks, and make referrals to the county’s Isolation and Quarantine facilities and Assessment and Recovery Centers.

For additional testing, a separate Mobile Assessment Team or testing team from a partner organization is available to deploy to sites, based on the specific needs at each location.  In the past month, approximately 1,500 residents and staff have been tested at facilities that have had at least one positive case of COVID-19.

Since February, Public Health has been proactively reaching out to sites without any confirmed or suspected illnesses, providing technical advice on infection control and social distancing. These assessments support facilities in accessing hygiene supplies such as wipes, masks and cleaning products through a shared warehouse ordering process.

For details on King County’s coordinated response to limit the harm of COVID-19 among people living homeless, see “Action Steps: Supporting King County residents experiencing homelessness.”

Tips for staying healthy in a multigenerational home

Stay Home, Stay Healthy guidelines remain an important part of the community’s response to COVID-19. In a home with multiple generations, ensuring everyone’s health can require some additional attention. Read more about protecting older adults at home.

Information about COVID-19 antibody testing

A new type of test that measures antibodies to the SARS-CoV2 virus (which causes COVID-19) has been getting a lot of attention lately and is becoming available, but there are important limitations.

“Serology (antibody) tests are useful in understanding how many people in a population may have been infected previously and who may have some immunity protecting against future infection. However, at this point we do not know how much, if any, protection against future COVID-19 infection is provided by antibodies detected by various serological tests,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health—Seattle & King County.

“It’s important to understand that there is no reliable way at this time to know if someone is protected based on results of an antibody test, and any product that provides an ‘immunity certificate’ or other statement indicating protection based on the test result is unlawful and should be reported to the FDA and the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.”

Read more about antibody testing.

Case updates

Daily totals for new COVID-19 cases and deaths are available on Public Health’s Data Dashboard webpage, which updates as soon as data are available, typically between 1-3 p.m.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease. Examples of people who may need this assistance include people who cannot safely isolate from a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness. Individuals can only be placed into the King County sites after a health professional with Public Health has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.

Seventy-four people are currently staying in King County isolation, quarantine and recovery facilities. The number of residents at King County’s isolation and quarantine sites is included in regular updates provided by Public Health. No other identifying or personal information will be provided.

Additional information 

  • Information about COVID-19 and the response in King County, be sure to check our webpage: www.kingcounty.gov/covid
  • Public Health publishes new information frequently through the Public Health Insider blog – please consider becoming a subscriber by choosing the option to “Follow Blog Via Email.”