The Seattle area has the country's third largest concentration of citizens like Lovey, experiencing homelessness, and the city has become the centre of the US's battle against the spread of the novel coronavirus that has already led to at least 27 deaths, 22 of them in Washington state.

Scientists say homeless communities, like the encampment where Lovey lives, are some of the most at risk of transmission and contraction of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Many deal with multiple diseases, malnourishment from food insecurity, mental health problems and violence.

The first step to combatting any one of a number of compounding pressures on the lives of homeless people, researchers and officials say, is providing housing.

"In King County and in cities across the country, concerns about specific risks to homeless populations underscore the need to address what we've long known is the only effective and durable solution to homelessness: housing first and foremost, along with case management to make sure folks are safe and have access to the support and services they need," Seattle City councillor Teresa Mosqueda told Al Jazeera.

The needs for those experiencing homelessness compound quickly. Homeless people are ageing, which can make them more susceptible to viral diseases, and drug use can weaken immune systems.

Scientists believe the novel coronavirus is less harmful to younger people, but conditions like stress and malnourishment can exacerbate vulnerability. In Washington state, the number of school-age children experiencing homeless has in the last decade increased sharply, now standing at roughly 40,000 students.

"I'm confident that Seattle has a strong and experienced health department," Eisinger said, "but what I'm not confident about is that everyone understands what needs to be done to address the needs of those experiencing homeless."

Read the full article about COVID and homelessness by Ian Morse at Al Jazeera.