As Delta variant spreads, homeless shelters in Kentucky are forced to adapt

Posted at 8:48 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 23:18:07-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The surge in COVID-19 cases in Kentucky has forced people who help run homeless shelters to reassess their reopening plans.

At the Catholic Action Center in Lexington, the volunteers who have not been allowed inside since March 2020 were slated to return next month. The spread of the Delta variant, however, has pushed back that date.

"We were watching what the variant was doing," Ginny Ramsey, the director, and co-founder of the center, said. "We were listening to our governor and our health department, and we were watching closely."

The center has kept strict health protocols in place since the beginning of the pandemic, including requiring masks and temperature checks. Any person who stays at the center also needs to provide proof of vaccination.

"We're protecting people who are older and who have many health issues," Ramsey explained. "We're protecting them from what could happen."

A few miles away, staff at The Hope Center are also taking a cautious approach, ensuring that unvaccinated clients reside separately from those who have been vaccinated.

While vaccinations are not required, 90-95 percent of clients are vaccinated, according to Carey Cairo, the volunteer and community engagement manager.

Cairo said more than 80 percent of people in the emergency shelter are also vaccinated.

"We are keeping an eye on things," Cairo said when asked about the Delta variant. "As case numbers go up in Fayette County, we'll adapt our policies to be as safe as possible."

Although the volunteer program has ramped back up at The Hope Center, Cairo said she would not be surprised if restrictions are reimposed.

"We're very fluid in our response," Cairo explained. "This whole thing has taught us that we have to react quickly to changing circumstances."