ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Advocates for the homeless in Minnesota are taking steps to protect the vulnerable population from contracting the coronavirus.

But, they say it’s not easy given the busy shelters were people often sleep and eat in close proximity and share restrooms.

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Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless executive director Rhonda Otteson said many homeless have chronic health conditions, putting them at “grave risk” if they contract COVID-19.

“In a time when we are supposed to be social distancing to protect our neighbors and so we don’t overwhelm the limited capacity of the health care system, we have thousands of people in Minnesota living in spaces that were not designed for social distancing,” Otteson said.

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Hennepin County is moving medically at-risk people from homeless shelters to hotels, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

And beginning Friday, Ramsey County is opening Mary Hall in St. Paul as a respite for homeless adults with coronavirus symptoms.

In Rochester, Olmsted County and Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota are using the Mayo Civic Center Exhibition Hall as a temporary day center and night shelter.

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