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People experiencing homelessness bear a disproportionate burden of chronic illnesses and are unable to consistently practice social isolation; unsurprisingly, they have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Studies from the early months of the pandemic in the United States demonstrated infection rates1 and, in some places, hospitalization rates2 in this population that were substantially higher than in those with stable housing. Like many social predicaments, homelessness is generally treated by health systems as unfortunate but ignorable; patients without homes are discharged to the street if their medical needs do not require immediate hospitalization. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made homelessness unignorable and brought the responsibility for housing squarely into the hands of health practitioners; patients experiencing homelessness who are diagnosed with or under investigation for COVID-19 may not meet inpatient or observation criteria, but they may spread the virus to others if discharged from the hospital.
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Published: March 2, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.0635
Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 Barocas JA et al. JAMA Network Open.
Corresponding Author: Joshua A. Barocas, MD, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston University Medical Campus, 801 Massachusetts Ave, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA 02131 (email@example.com).
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
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