On June 29, 2020, UMD was notified that a resident of our emergency shelter who had been hospitalized had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness resulting from the novel coronavirus. That client remains in the hospital. Since learning of this test result, we have worked with Durham County public health officials and Duke medical staff to test other residents and all staff. Two additional residents, who are asymptomatic, have now tested positive for COVID-19 and have been moved to an isolation location as required. Public health officials are conducting contact tracing. All UMD shelter staff have tested negative. As a precaution, Duke medical staff will perform follow-up testing of shelter residents and staff later this week and are offering testing to volunteers who want it.
I want to assure you and all our stakeholders that UMD is taking every step recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local authorities to contain the spread of illness.
Since early March, we have worked closely with Durham County government leaders, public health officials and emergency operations to respond effectively to COVID-19. We have implemented mask-wearing, regular temperature checks, new cleaning procedures and modified services to protect the well-being of clients, staff and volunteers. These measures have included converting meal service from congregate dining to takeout only and moving shelter residents to temporary quarters at a hotel so they could better adhere to social distancing. UMD thanks the Durham County Commissioners for approving funding for this relocation and the Marriott at Research Triangle Park for hosting clients and shelter staff. The county’s contract with the Marriott-RTP ends July 9, and UMD residents will be returning to campus tomorrow, July 8.
When residents return, UMD’s shelter will be limited to 83 beds, rather than 149, due to the ongoing need to ensure social distancing. To address this dramatic reduction in spots, we are appealing to supporters to offer clients temporary or permanent rental opportunities and/or to donate beds and linens so shelter residents have a place to sleep when they do move out. UMD is also seeking contributions to Project ROOF (Removing Obstacles to Occupancy Funds), which will help shelter residents exit to housing more quickly by paying for expenses like rental deposits, first month’s rent and utility hook-ups. Donations to this initiative can be made on our website. Please include “ROOF” in the dedication field. You can learn more about all of these opportunities to make a difference by visiting our home page.
In addition to this appeal, UMD is working with Durham County officials to secure a second location for emergency shelter for medically fragile residents and others who cannot be accommodated due to reduced capacity. We are ready to provide offsite staffing and services, which include case management, workforce development, referral to other needed care and three free meals a day.
We will continue to provide you with updates on important developments related to COVID-19 via emails like this, our website and social media channels. We know that Durham has been identified as a ‘county of concern’ for COVID-19 spread and are focused on maintaining as safe an environment as possible. This will enable UMD to continue offering food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need. Thanks so much for your confidence and ongoing support.
Sheldon Mitchell, Executive Director