The fourth telephone town hall meeting was held Wednesday night to discuss health care for the homeless, unemployment resources and other resident concerns amid the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor Lauren Poe led the panel of speakers, including UF Health CEO Ed Jimenez, United Way of North Central Florida CEO Mona Gil de Gibaja and Alachua County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson, who answered questions from resident callers while live streaming on Facebook. Gainesville is ranked within the top 30 Florida cities with the most cases of COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Gil de Gibaja said that United Way, a nonprofit organization, will conduct an outreach program to the more than 300 homeless individuals in Gainesville. She didn’t specify when this program would begin.
Small groups of outreach workers will each be joined by a UF medical student to check homeless residents for flu-like symptoms and provide resources such as hand sanitizers and toiletries, Gil de Gibaja said. The outreach workers will use tablets to map out where the homeless are staying and collect contact information, if possible, to check on them in the future.
The county has secured three hotels willing to house any homeless individuals who are symptomatic for the 14-day quarantine period for free, Gil de Gibaja said. She didn’t mention which hotels these are. Grace Marketplace has also offered to supply three meals a day to those who quarantine in the hotels.
“I have to tell you, this has been an amazing collaborative effort,” Gil de Gibaja said.
Jimenez said he’s received several questions about how UF Shands would fair under a high volume of patients. UF Health has 400 ICUs, he said, which is nearly as big as other hospitals in Gainesville and is larger than most in Florida. The Alligator was unable to confirm this.
In response to questions about unemployment resources, Poe said curbside paper forms will be available for those struggling to access the online unemployment system, which has been an ongoing issue. Residents will be able to get the forms at Career Source North Central Florida, which is located on the corner of University Ave and Sixth Street in downtown Gainesville.
Poe closed the meeting by encouraging Gainesville residents to contact senators and representatives because they are currently working on legislation to provide relief to counties and cities.
“Let them know how important this is that local municipalities and counties are eligible for funding,” Poe said, “because we will certainly need it to help our communities recover.”
Contact Sarah Mandile at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SarahMandile.