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Arizona diagnostic firm gives 300 virus tests for homeless

PHOENIX — Sonora Quest Laboratories is working with local and national nonprofits and Maricopa County to test 300 members of the homeless community for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The national nonprofit Community Solutions, which supports local efforts to ease homelessness, said this week that the Arizona diagnostic testing firm had donated the tests and the healthcare provider Circle the City is administering them. Other local nonprofit groups are helping transport people for testing and trying to help them find permanent housing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged testing for people in homeless shelters, noting their higher incidence of chronic disease.

Circle the City has not said how many positive tests it had seen. The first known COVID-19 case among the homeless community in greater Phoenix was reported two weeks ago.

Maricopa County officials say that on any given night about 7,400 people in the county report they are experiencing homelessness. Of those, about half are in shelters.

But public health workers say people being tested don’t always reveal their housing circumstances, which means that the number of homeless people testing positive is likely underestimated.

Flagstaff Shelter Services in northern Arizona earlier this month said 20 people, including two staff members, had tested positive at its facility.