New cases of COVID-19 detected at Brother Francis Shelter

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Nineteen more people associated with Brother Francis Shelter have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Anchorage Health Department.

That’s on top of 60 clients and one staff member who tested positive in an earlier round of sampling.

The shelter on East Third Avenue remains open amid the acute outbreak but is no longer accepting newcomers. Operated by Catholic Social Services, Brother Francis accommodates elderly, medically comprised people, and those who use wheelchairs and walkers. Everyone who tested positive is isolating at a secure and monitored location provide by the municipality, according to health officials.

Of the 79 cases, three are Catholic Social Services employees, said Lisa Aquino, executive director.

As of last week, five clients with positive test results had been hospitalized and all but one were released. Aquino said there have been no new hospitalizations as far as she knew. Most of the cases involved people who were asymptomatic, she said.

Brother Francis provides a critical service to people who don’t have another place to go and there are no plans to close the shelter, Aquino said.

“We’re working really hard to make sure our clients and staff are as safe as possible,” said she.


Prior to the pandemic, Brother Francis was Anchorage’s largest shelter for homeless residents. But due to spacing requirements recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city moved to decompress the crowded shelter by converting two sporting arenas into mass shelters. While the Ben Boeke has since converted back to an ice arena, the Sullivan Arena next door continues to serve the homeless. It lately has reached or exceeded capacity, and maintains a waiting list, according to the shelter operator.

Aquino said she commends her staff for doing the hard work of serving the community’s most vulnerable residents.

“They do it with heart.”

The shelter can accommodate up to 114 clients and has an on-site medical clinic. Just 45 clients stayed there on Sunday night.

Staff are encouraging the remaining clients “to stay with us day and night.”

“This is our bubble,” Aquino said.

The city’s health department and emergency operations staff are leading the response to the outbreak. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Epidemiology Center and Alaska Health & Social Services’ Section of Epidemiology are providing support.

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Paula Dobbyn

Paula Dobbyn is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on homelessness. She's a veteran Alaska journalist who has reported for the Anchorage Daily News, KTUU and the Alaska Public Radio Network. Contact her at