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Second COVID-19 death tied to outbreak at Santa Rosa homeless shelter

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

To track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world, go here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

A second homeless person died from complications of the coronavirus due to a massive outbreak that began at Santa Rosa’s Samuel L. Jones Hall shelter in early July.

The Sonoma County Department of Public Health confirmed the death to city officials late Wednesday, said Adriane Mertens, a spokeswoman for the city.

The vaccinated woman, between 50 and 64, died Aug. 8 at a local hospital. She had underlying health conditions.

Her death was among four COVID-19 fatalities, county public health officials reported Wednesday. They boosted the number of virus-related deaths in August to nine and the pandemic death toll since March 2020 to 344.

The first death tied to the outbreak was a Sam Jones shelter resident who died at a local hospital on July 25 and was unvaccinated, officials said. He was between 50 and 64 and also had underlying health conditions.

During a separate coronavirus outbreak at the homeless shelter early this year, one person died in January. So the latest death is the third at Sam Jones this year related to the pandemic disease.

The latest outbreak started on July 2 when two homeless people there tested positive for COVID-19, prompting shelter operator Catholic Charities to close the hall to new residents. Six days later, the number of people infected by the virus increased to 47 residents.

Ultimately, in this latest outbreak — the county’s second-largest during the pandemic — 114 of the 156 shelter residents, along with three staff, have tested positive for the infectious disease, officials said. Only 66 of those infected were fully vaccinated.

At least 51 shelter residents have contracted the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, officials said. The strain is driving a rise in infections, hospitalizations and deaths across Sonoma County and the country, predominantly among the unvaccinated.

Nearly half of the shelter population was unvaccinated prior to the COVID-19 outbreak that began July 2.

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said last month the low vaccination rate at Sam Jones is likely what made the outbreak so severe.

The shelter has not had a resident test positive for the coronavirus since Aug. 2, Mertens said. And no one has had to be quarantined since then in Healdsburg at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn, a temporary county alternative care site for certain people needing to isolate after contracting COVID-19.

Still, the Sam Jones shelter is not yet open for additional homeless people, and that has been the status since the outbreak began, said Jennielynn Holmes, head of homelessness services at Catholic Charities and senior director of the shelter.

“We're still evaluating the reopening plan” with city and county public health officials, Holmes said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated that the homeless person who died from the coronavirus was a man.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

To track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world, go here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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