Homeless population at COVID-19 isolation complex triples in two days

isolation quarantine
(City of Las Vegas photo)
isolation quarantine
(City of Las Vegas photo)

The number of people at the joint city/county isolation and quarantine complex in Las Vegas, which houses those experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have come in contact with the virus, has tripled since the beginning of the week.

The City of Las Vegas’ daily count of the ISO-Q Complex, a facility at Cashman Field constructed by the city and Clark County to house unsheltered persons, shows as of Wednesday 64 patients are at the facility: 

  • 37 in the isolation unit, which houses those exposed but have no symptoms 
  • 24 in the quarantine unit for those with symptoms
  • Three positive cases in a separate unit

The total population of the facility was only 19 on Monday. 

“We have seen an uptick in numbers at the complex as more and more people experiencing homelessness understand the purpose of the ISO-Q, and that those at the complex are recovering,” said city spokesman Jace Radke. “We have also started to be more proactive in asking those experiencing homelessness and have been exposed or show symptoms to be transported to Cashman. In addition to within Corridor of Hope, our outreach teams are also helping to direct people to the ISO-Q.”

According to the city’s report from Monday, zero patients were in the quarantine unit at that time, 14 were in the isolation unit with symptoms and five were confirmed positive cases in the final unit. 

“Once they are medically released, they leave the ISO-Q,” Radke said. “They work with the providers in the Corridor of Hope for placement and services like anyone else experiencing being homeless.”

The 500-bed facility, which began construction late March, has been operational since April 13 after its initial opening date, April 6, was delayed. 

While the complex is designed to house those experiencing homelessness who either have the  virus or have been exposed, it doesn’t shelter those living on the streets. 

Local homeless providers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and national advocacy groups have all called on Southern Nevada officials to focus on housing those who are unsheltered to prevent the spread of the virus. Some have pointed to thousands of vacant hotel rooms as an option. 

Clark County officials have previously said they had struggled to secure hotel and motel rooms as a housing option.

In March, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada shut down its 500 bed emergency shelter after a client tested positive for COVID-19. It has since opened back up at half capacity. 

The Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, an open-air facility that provides sleeping mats, currently sleeps between 300 to 400 individuals at night. 

As part of the first phase to “reopen Nevada,” Gov. Steve Sisolak highlighted as one of his priorities “a sustained ability to protect vulnerable populations, meaning that outbreaks are successfully contained and closed in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes. 

Since the beginning of the month, Nevada Current has emailed the governor’s office to ask about his response to the state’s unsheltered population during the health crisis, including what steps it’s taking to talk with local businesses and hotel owners about renting out space to house homeless.

He hasn’t responded to any of the questions.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.