First Person in New York City's Homeless Community Dies from Coronavirus

A member of New York City’s homeless community has passed away from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), city officials confirm to PEOPLE on Wednesday.

“What we’re seeing continues to track the trends across our city, state, and country – with more testing taking place, we’re effectively identifying more positives, which gives us the ability to immediately connect each individual to the care they need, whether in hospital or in isolation,” a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Social Services told PEOPLE in a statement.

“Tragically, one New Yorker experiencing homelessness succumbed to this virus after several days in the hospital – our hearts go out to this individual’s friends and family.”

The individual — a single adult male in his 60s who was hospitalized last week — passed away on Tuesday, according to city officials. His identity has not been released.

New York City’s Department of Homeless Services confirmed there have been a total of 39 positive cases of coronavirus among the city’s homeless residents as of March 24. The cases occurred across 27 shelter locations, with 12 individuals hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to the DHS.

As of Tuesday, nine people have been placed in DHS isolation wards, while 18 are either self-isolating within their own units or have made their own arrangements, including staying with family, the department said.

One of the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier has since “completed their isolation and got back on their feet healthy,” a Department of Social Services spokesperson told PEOPLE.

“We remain focused on coordinating with Agency partners, health experts, and providers to keep our clients informed and prepared as we respond together to these realities.”

According to the the department, there are now 500 isolation units across four locations independent of DHS shelters that homeless residents showing symptoms of the coronavirus can use during the health crisis. There are 65 individuals occupying isolation units at two locations as of Tuesday.

The homeless population is especially vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak as many in the community lack access to proper sanitation and supplies.

As of March 25, the state of New York has reported the most coronavirus cases in the nation, according to a New York Times database. Within its borders, there have been at least 30,811 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 285 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

Across the United States, there have been at least 59,502 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 804 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-19, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the zika epidemic in 2016.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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