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Puerta del Sol square in Madrid on Monday. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images

People experiencing homelessness don't have access to the recommended precautions to stave off the coronavirus.

The state of play: They often don't have access to places to wash their hands, many sleep outside in crowded encampments, and social distancing is next to impossible in crowded shelters.

  • The population living outside tends to be older and to have pre-existing health conditions.
  • If they do get sick, they're more likely to end up in intensive care, said Samantha Batko, a research associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

Why it matters: "People sleeping outside in crowded and unclean situations could rapidly expand the spread of the disease," Batko said. "We have to rapidly expand shelter capacity."

What's happening: Half of the country's unsheltered homeless population lives in California, which is taking aggressive steps. Gov. Gavin Newsom is securing empty hotel and motel rooms for shelter.

  • San Francisco has rented RVs to isolate people who end up with the virus but don't need hospitalization. Along with Los Angeles, the city has placed sanitation stations at encampments.
  • In Washington state, King County purchased a former Econo Lodge in Kent to use as a quarantine site. But the decision came under fire when a homeless person waiting for results of a COVID-19 test left the premises and boarded a bus.
  • Other municipalities are considering leasing vacant buildings for temporary shelters, so people with symptoms can be isolated from others who have nowhere else to go. San Diego is working with local universities to use empty dorms for this purpose.
  • LA and others are handing out hygiene packs with hand sanitizer and soap.

The catch: Despite outreach efforts, homeless programs rely on funding, supplies and volunteers, all of which are in short supply.

Go deeper: Coronavirus updates

Go deeper

Updated 22 mins ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by the Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

2 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.