Chicago coronavirus 'could spread like wildfire' among homeless without proper precautions, advocates say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As more people across the country test positive for the novel coronavirus, and as the death toll climbs, some experts fear the virus could "spread like wildfire" among Chicago's homeless population without proper precautions.

It's unclear if there are any confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the homeless, but because of the obstacles they face, some say it's inevitable.

RELATED: Coronavirus Illinois: What to know about COVID-19 cases, Chicago area effects

Stephen Koruva and his medical team are doing what they can to help the homeless among this outbreak.

"They're living out on the street, they're rough sleepers," he said. "Their immune systems are already compromised."

The Night Ministry is a medical outreach which services the homeless, working in teams six days a week for 12 hours a day. They said avoiding being infected is a big deal, not just for those living on the streets but also for anyone trying to help them.

"We have masks. We have gloves, we have eye protection that we wear and have our clients wear," said Sophia Managuit, outreach worker.

RELATED: Coronavirus Chicago Update: School closings, events canceled amid COVID-19 outbreak

The homeless can't stay home or self-quarantine. Shelters are also adjusting protocols by increasing cleaning, and disinfecting frequently used areas and, in some cases, considering screening new guests for illness before they're permitted inside a facility.

More than 80,000 people are considered to be homeless in the city of Chicago. Advocates say it's crucial to provide them with resources. In other cities they are looking at giving those who live on the streets access to hand washing stations and portable toilets, all in an effort to slow down the outbreak.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.