Washoe County prepared for a surge of COVID-19 patients who cannot self-isolate.

For community members who cannot safely self isolate, Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks deployed as many as 60 trailers to enable those with COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms to find a safe haven - photo: Brian Bahouth/The Sierra Nevada Ally

If a homeless person living in the Downtown Reno Events Center develops COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis, they lack the ability to self-isolate. Likewise, an infected individual living with an elderly or immune compromised person may struggle to find a safe place to wait out the sickness.

Adam Mayberry is a spokesperson for the Washoe County Incident Management Team. He says, the county has 60 trailers at its disposal, should the number of patients exceed the 22 self-isolation beds available through a contract with the medical insurance provider Wellcare.

“We currently have seven trailers in place operational today as we speak. We don’t have any patients in them now. We expect that will change. But we currently have a total of 35 beds that are ready to accommodate should Wellcare exceed its capacity and we need alternative housing.”

According to Mayberry, Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks are paying to deploy the housing units with the intention of getting 75 percent or possibly more in reimbursement from federal relief sources. The cost is yet to be determined.

Seven of the trailers are ready for occupants and more are being readied – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Sierra Nevada Ally

For individuals who cannot live independently and lack the ability to self-isolate, the county has contracted for 43 beds in 20 units of “supportive housing.” Supportive housing includes three meals a day and support from a case manager and registered nurse.

Currently two people diagnosed with COVID-19 are in the WellCare facility. Mayberry said, based on several models, the county is prepared for the worst case scenario.

Julia Ratti is a Nevada state senator who represents District 13 in Sparks and is also an employee of the Washoe County Health District. Ratti is in charge of the county’s efforts to address novel coronavirus concerns among the region’s homeless population.

On April 1, during an online press conference, Ratti said the Washoe County Human Services Agency will determine placement in alternative or supportive housing. The vetting process starts when someone exhibits COVID-19 symptoms. If an individual goes to a hospital emergency room or clinic, the referral to the Human Services Agency begins there.

“The staff is screening every individual who comes into the Reno Event Center, and they are checking their temperature and they’re asking them for symptoms,” Ratti explained. “If they have symptoms, then they are escorted over to the existing Record Street Shelter.

“In that shelter is where you can find those individual rooms with a bathroom and a bed, and they are housed there until the morning when the Community Health Alliance team comes in and screens them.

“If the Community Health Alliance team, which is medical professionals, believes that they are COVID-19-at risk, then we pull them out and get them housing and we also get them lined up for testing at that point.”

Crews from NV Energy and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority are working to establish services to a small village of trailers intended to house those with COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis who cannot self isolate – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Sierra Nevada Ally
Workers ready trailers to house those with COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis who cannot safely self isolate – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Sierra Nevada Ally
One of 60 trailers being readied to accommodate those with COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis and cannot self isolate – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Sierra Nevada Ally