Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter will reopen with enhanced safety protocols to protect residents and staff and to help prevent future COVID transmission
The Samuel L. Jones Homeless Shelter (SJH) reopened new shelter intakes on Friday, Aug 27, providing emergency temporary sheltering to those experiencing homelessness within Santa Rosa.
The facility, which is owned by the City of Santa Rosa and operated by Catholic Charities, was closed to intakes on July 2 after an outbreak of COVID-19. It is now reopening following more than two consecutive weeks of all negative COVID-19 test results among current shelter occupants and staff. The shelter will be reopening with updated plans and new mitigation measures in place to protect residents and staff from future potential COVID transmission. These new measures are based on the lessons learned from the recent outbreak which involved the highly transmissible Delta variant strain.
The City of Santa Rosa and Catholic Charities worked with the Sonoma County Department of Health Services to create the updated COVID-safety plan for reopening the shelter. The plan includes operational adjustments including reduced shelter capacity, a new resident intake process, new procedures for testing, and ongoing availability of an Alternate Care Site (ACS) in Sonoma County to provide isolation and quarantine for any SJH residents who have been exposed to COVID-19, are symptomatic, or test positive.
“We are relieved and grateful to be able to safely reopen Sam Jones Hall, following what has been an extremely difficult time for our shelter staff and Santa Rosa community,” said City of Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers. “Since the first COVID cases became known at the shelter, public health authorities locally and across the nation have learned a great deal about the Delta variant and its transmissibility. Thankfully, our Sonoma County health experts have provided support and guidance throughout our shelter outbreak and have helped us to formulate enhanced plans and mitigation measures, which are in place now as the shelter reopens to serve the critical needs of those experiencing homelessness.”
“What happened at the shelter is indicative of what is happening around the community and the country given the aggressiveness and unique nature of the Delta variant,” said Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase. “The rapid spread of this virus is requiring all of us to be more cautious and more diligent about taking care of the basics such as isolating when we have symptoms, quarantining if necessary when we have been exposed to those who test positive and getting tested. But the biggest step we all need to take is to get vaccinated. Nothing is more important, particularly at this juncture.”
While many of the COVID-protocols that were in place prior to the outbreak will continue – such as masking, social distancing, and education and outreach to encourage vaccinations among residents – changes to some shelter operation areas have been incorporated into the reopening plan, including the following:
The bed capacity at the SJH campus – including the Main Hall and the Annex – will be reduced from 213 beds to 126 beds, and bed layout adjustments will be implemented for greater social distancing.
A designated isolation waiting area will be established in the shelter Annex for symptomatic residents, those who have had an exposure, or those who test positive. The area will be spaced away from the general shelter population, separated by partitions, and will have access to a separate restroom and separate entry and exit. The isolation area will be used only until transportation offsite for appropriate care can be arranged, either to a medical provider or an ACS.
New resident intake process and ongoing testing
Enhanced health surveying procedures will be provided for all new residents during the shelter intake process, including temperature and symptom checks, and identification of potential factors that place an individual at high-risk of COVID-19 complications. Rapid antigen testing will also be offered during the intake process to identify potential positive cases and to ensure individuals who test positive are able to receive the appropriate level of care. Ongoing, twice a month COVID testing will also be offered to all residents.
Continued operation of the ACS
The County of Sonoma is committed to maintaining operation of the ACS through at least Sept. 30. The ACS is a critical component of mitigating any future COVID-19 cases at the shelter in that it provides a site where residents who are symptomatic, have had an exposure, or who test positive for COVID-19 can be transferred as quickly as possible for triage of medical care, isolation, and quarantine away from the general shelter population. As learned during the outbreak, the congregate setting of the SJH facility cannot effectively serve as an isolation area for any extended timeframe.
For more information on the recent outbreak at SJH visit, srcity.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1535.
For COVID-19 public health, vaccinations and testing information, visit socoemergency.org.