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Keeping people living in high risk accommodation safe from COVID transmissions

When Melbourne registered its first case of community transmission in 28 days, after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive for coronavirus, cohealth’s High Risk Assessment Response (HRAR) team sprang into action.  

Since October 2020, cohealth has been working with over 800 rooming houses, backpacker hostels, supported accommodation facilities, community housing and public housing providers across Victoria. These accomodations are considered high-risk because of factors like multiple shared spaces, poor ventilation and narrow exits.  Many of the residents also come from marginalised backgrounds, have lower English literacy and have pre-existing health conditions. Through in-depth property audits at these high risk accommodations, the HRAR team have:

  • assessed potential risks in the event of an outbreak. and
  • made recommendations on how to make them more COVID safe for the 16,000 vulnerable residents.

When a hotel quarantine worker tested positive, the HRAR team identified that 140 accommodations were located in an outbreak area. Due to the audits already conducted, the team were able to smoothly contact the property owners and managers to work out what kind of response was needed. The team’s response included:

  • Providing access to COVID testing for people with symptoms (there are 18 mobile testers available, 24-7 to go to sites when needed)
  • Distributing flyers for the residents to answer their question
  • Deep cleaning of the properties
  • Providing care packages for all residents

Before the HRAR team was established in October 2020, cohealth had no contact with these accommodation owners and managers. While relationships existed with individual residents, many are transient and not always easy to stay in contact with, meaning it’s easy for them to slip through the cracks.

cohealth is now a point of contact and support for the people who oversee the accommodation when residents feel concerned or if there has been a local transmission. The manager of a hostel located near a recent CBD hotel quarantine case proactively called the cohealth team to find out what he needed to do in light of the new case.

This is a great example of how working in partnership with communities to provide innovative and responsive care can help improve health and wellbeing for all.

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