Brother Francis Shelter confirms 20 COVID-19 cases

Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage.
Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage in 2016. (Staff photo)

Twenty people staying at the Brother Francis Shelter have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to managers at the shelter. 

Brother Francis is a low barrier shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness in Anchorage with a capacity of 114. 

The first case was reported by a guest who had left the shelter last week, according to David Rittenberg, the director at the shelter. 

“So that individual actually called us on Tuesday looking for his belongings and our staff did a little bit of investigation with him about where he was and what was going on. And he told us he was positive at that point. We did our own internal contact tracing to try and identify any of his close contacts,” he said.

Rittenberg said the test results came back showing an additional 19 people had tested positive. The shelter continues to test residents three times per week in response to the positive cases. Rittenberg said all of the positive individuals have so far been asymptomatic, which is fortunate considering the population served. 

“A lot of our guests are going to be people that are seniors or elders or people that have different underlying health conditions,” he said.

The cases are the first at the shelter, which has been conducting regular temperature screenings at entry and has put in place enhanced sanitation measures since the pandemic began. It’s also reduced capacity in half to allow for distancing. Rittenberg said that while he was hoping the shelter could avoid any cases, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. 

“This is something that we’ve been talking about with our guests since, since everything started back in back in March that you know, this was a possibility that we were doing everything that we can to prevent but also something that we were preparing for,” he said.

He said more test results should come back soon and that staff and guests have taken the news in stride. 

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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