Brian Paul Kaufman and Jeff Routh, Times-Mail

BEDFORD — The Men's Warming Shelter of Bedford is now a temporary quarantine area for COVID-19 after organizers learned Monday a homeless man who claimed the shelter as his residence tested positive for the virus.

Eleven men are now forced to stay in the shelter for approximately 12 days to prevent any potential spread, according to First Christian Church Pastor Bruce Ervin, who serves on the shelter’s board.

“Every effort is being made to keep our guests who may have been exposed to the virus safe and make sure they would not pose any kind of risk to residents of Lawrence County,” Ervin said.

The Lawrence County Health Department Monday night reported the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Lawrence County — a 67-year-old man admitted to St. Vincent Dunn Hospital March 21 through the emergency room.

The man was approved for testing March 22. A test was completed, and he was then transferred to St. Vincent Evansville, where he remained Monday night.

Because of privacy issues, the health department is unable to provide the name of the individual who stayed at the shelter. As a result, the shelter can’t determine for certain when or even if the man was actually there.

“If we had a name we could check that out,” Ervin said. “(But) clearly the county was convinced and the order came down. And we are taking every reasonable precaution as if he was a guest.”

The health department gave shelter director Jennifer Richason a choice: Turn the shelter into a quarantine area or have tents set up nearby to serve that purpose, Ervin said.

It’s now closed for the season to additional guests and none will be welcomed until it reopens in the fall.

The shelter is organizing churches to provide three meals a day that will be placed on a cart outside the facility. No volunteers bringing food will be allowed in the shelter, he said.

The shelter’s board met remotely Tuesday afternoon with Richason to make these and other decisions, while Richason is in ongoing contact with health officials, he said.

Richason has already assembled her team of volunteers who will be needed while the men are quarantined, Ervin said.

The county health department has promised to provide all the safety equipment and clothing needed by the guests, staff and volunteers, Ervin said.

“The men are watching TV, talking, reading, keeping social distance ... all necessary health precautions will be observed,” he said. “To the best of our knowledge, the guests are experiencing no new symptoms,” he said.

© 2020, Bedford, IN.