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38 test positive for COVID-19 at a Dallas homeless shelter, 171 quarantined

At Dallas Life, 17 residents tested positive. All 171 guests were taken to an undisclosed hotel where they will quarantine for 14 days.
Credit: WFAA

DALLAS — Updated at 12 p.m. Saturday to reflect additional positive cases confirmed by Dallas Life officials. 

At a homeless shelter called Dallas Life, 38 people tested positive for COVID-19. The county announced Friday morning that all residents at the location would be taken to quarantine at a hotel.

Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County Health and Human Services director, said, "We would have to assume almost everyone has been exposed, and certainly do additional testing if they develop symptoms." 

With DART buses and police escort, 171 people were transported from Dallas Life to an undisclosed hotel. 

"We are so grateful for their generosity and willingness to care for the homeless. We said yes right away," said Bob Sweeney, executive director of Dallas Life. 

While the shelter is empty, they will take the time to disinfect the location. Sweeney said his residents with COVID-19 were asymptomatic. 

LeTitia Owens is concerned about the homeless population. She is the CEO of Where Are You Outreach and on the board of the Citizen Homelessness Commission for the City of Dallas.

Owens works with people without a home on a daily basis. She believes there are 20 positives cases on the street, but the city disputes that.

Meanwhile, the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center has been open as an overflow shelter since many local shelters are cutting back capacity for social distancing purposes. According to the city, staff at the convention center evaluate each person in the intake line to identify any potential COVID-19 symptoms. Those who may have a chance of being sick are taken to a hotel for quarantine instead.

On Friday night, a city official said no one staying overnight at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center have tested positive for COVID-19.

"The number is going to grow unless more people come together and say I don't want to just think about myself. I want to think about people around me and provide for those as well," said Owens.

She hopes more people will donate gloves, masks, or even volunteer their time to local shelters. 

She said outreach organizations and the City of Dallas have been very supportive, funding buses and hotel to those exposed within the homeless population. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a clarification from the City of Dallas on the city's current count of COVID-19 cases in the homeless population and the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. 

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