Homeless New Yorkers in Shelters Face Higher Coronavirus Death Rate

Helena Hill, a 56-year-old New Yorker, was living in a College Point, Queens, homeless shelter when the pandemic hit. She had been staying there since December, in a room with 12 other women — and sharing a bathroom, a cafeteria, and common areas — where it was nearly impossible to practice social distancing.

Hill began exhibiting some coronavirus symptoms in late March; she remembers feeling achy, her back hurting, and having a fever (though she wasn’t tested at that time, it was recently determined that she has antibodies). Around the same time, there was a fire drill in the shelter, during which it was even more difficult to practice any kind of social distancing. Afterward, many of the shelter’s residents headed over to a crowded cafeteria. “It was just chaos,” she says.

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