The Omicron Variant of COVID-19: What Homeless Service Providers Need to Know

January 19, 2022

This new federal guidance, which is available as a PDF, is intended to help communities minimize the spread and impact of  the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, who face an increased risk of infection and severe disease compared to the general population.

It was developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Affairs (VA).

Unlike the 5-day isolation and quarantine that the CDC recommends for the general population, the CDC still recommends a 10-day isolation and quarantine for people experiencing homelessness—regardless of vaccination status. To explore shortened quarantine periods for staff during critical staffing shortages and/or for individual client circumstances, USICH recommends consulting with state, local, and/or tribal health departments.

Although rehousing people continues to be an urgent priority, and the American Rescue Plan and CARES Act offer resources for rehousing, permanent housing isn’t always readily available. In cases where neither rehousing nor non-congregate shelter are an immediate option, communities and organizations should adhere to the quarantine and isolation guidance; partner with state, local, and/or tribal health departments; and follow these five strategies: 

  • Ensure availability of quarantine, isolation, and protective housing spaces.
  • Strengthen routine testing.
  • Encourage and support vaccinations against COVID-19.
  • Maintain mitigation protocols.
  • Avoid displacing people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

Click to read the guidance.