Screening Clients for COVID-19 at Homeless Shelters or Encampments
The following is a screening tool that can be used to identify people with possible symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although not every person who has symptoms will have COVID-19, conducting daily screenings consisting of a series of simple questions can help identify people who may need medical care or isolation.
If someone screens positive for symptoms, they should be directed to where they can stay according to a predesignated plan developed with the local Continuum of Care (CoC), public health department, and community leadership. For more details, see the Interim Guidance for Homeless Service Providers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 and the Interim Guidance on Unsheltered Homelessness and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for Homeless Service Providers and Local Officials.
- Determine if the client has a fever, by:
- Taking their temperature using a temporal thermometer (see box),
- Asking “Have you felt like you had a fever in the past day?”
- Ask the client “Do you have a new or worsening cough today?”
- Ask the client, “Do you have any of these other symptoms?
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If the client has a fever OR a new/worsening cough OR any of the other symptoms:
- Provide a mask for the client to wear over their nose and mouth, if one is available and if the client can tolerate it. If a mask is not available, advise the client about cough etiquette and provide tissues. Masks should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Notify management and appropriate healthcare providers.
- Direct the client to an isolation room if available, or to the area designated for persons with symptoms of COVID-19. If your shelter does not have an area for people with symptoms, redirect the person to the location prespecified by your CoC, public health department, and community leadership.
- Let the client know:
- If their symptoms worsen, they should notify a member of the homeless shelter staff immediately.
- They should not leave their room/the designated area except to use the restroom and they should stay at least 6 feet away from others.
- If they leave their room/the designated area, they must wear a mask.
- They should wash their hands often or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Use standard shelter protocols for medical emergencies.
Taking a client’s temperature using a temporal thermometer.
Temporal thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead. Temperature takers should keep as much distance from clients as they can, wear a mask and provide one to the client to wear, wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) regularly, and use gloves if available.
To use thermometer:
- Turn on the thermometer.
- Gently sweep the thermometer across the client’s forehead.
- Remove the thermometer and read the number:
- Fever: Any temperature 100.4 F or greater is considered a fever.
- No fever: People with temperatures at or below 100.3 F may continue into the shelter using normal procedures.
- Clean the thermometer with an alcohol wipe (or isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab) between each client. You can reuse the same wipe as long as it remains wet.