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Portland To Restrict Access To Shelters After 2 Guests Test Positive For COVID-19

Tom Porter
Maine Public
The Oxford Street Shelter in Portland, seen February 27, 2015.

Portland will temporarily restrict new intakes at its city-run shelters after two guests tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.The two guests, both from out of state, had stayed at the city's Oxford Street homeless shelter before testing positive for the virus and being quarantined. The city has now opened the Portland Expo building as a shelter to quarantine those who may have been exposed to the virus.

In a City Council workshop held by Zoom on Wednesday night, City Manager Jon Jennings said the action was taken to protect the health of residents and staff. Jennings said the city is also seeing guests arriving in Portland from towns located hours away.

"We cannot be the triage model for the entire state because other shelters have closed completely to new patients, new individuals," Jennings said. "So that is the concern that we have. Hence the reason why this is the model in which we're going with."

Jennings says that the roughly 600 people who had used the city's shelters over the past 90 days would still have access, and new residents needing services would be referred to General Assistance for housing.

Jennings said the city is also struggling to enforce social distancing at its shelters, as well as the quarantine order at the Expo, with guests still coming and going.

The city has created an isolated space at its Family Shelter, and has moved many families who had been at the city's shelter to local hotels.

The University of Southern Maine has also announced that it will be opening its gym to be used as a 50-bed shelter.