U.S. Disaster Response Scrambles To Protect People From Both Hurricanes And COVID-19
So, how do you stay safe from hurricane during pandemic? This is a question millions of people across the southeast facing this year and the stakes are even higher for those who depend on public shelters impairs abby Wendell has the story Freddie, and Chester, Davis. drew six hours to family in Atlanta when Hurricane Michael headed towards their home on Florida's panhandle two years ago. But the couples say they don't have the budget for a trip like that. Now, if they have to evacuate, they'll go to a local shelter despite concerns about the coronavirus she ball a lot of people don't understand how really S- Diabetic show the Davis is both in their sixties say they'd bring their own masks and sheets and stay inside for as little time as possible. We'll make sure that we're only there during the time of the storm. That we will want to get out of this hurricane season safely sheltering people is in part a math problem many coastal states have long standing shelter shortages, and that's being worsened by American Red Cross and CDC recommendations to give evacuees obtained three times more personal space go mathematically, my number drops dramatically bill. Johnson is the Emergency Management Director for Palm Beach County Florida. He says strictly following social distancing recommendations cuts his shelter capacity from fifty five thousand people to sixteen thousand gain backspace he. Says he'll cluster family members and use classrooms and school hallways as well as hotel rooms. A solution federal agencies are pushing the CDC calls hotels ideal because they have private bathrooms and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has offered to cover most of the cost Florida seems to have made the most progress with more than five hundred hotels so far expressing interest in participating but emergency managers including Johnson have run into barriers for starters. Hotels often quickly fill up with evacuees who can afford rooms. On their own and Johnson says many hotels reside along the shoreline, which is, of course you know in evacuation zones and we're not gonNA use those will tells for sheltering well, any additional space is welcome Johnson says hotels won't go far toward solving his capacity problem and despite Florida's progress details like how many rooms will actually be available who will get them remain unresolved other at risk coastal communities, including Houston and counties in southern Alabama are hesitant to enlist hotels partly because of concerns. Over the limits of females financial help you're gonNA have to make these spending decisions in advance of being guaranteed, they'll get the money back FEMA Bryan. Kuhn is the former director at the Florida division of Emergency Management and Vice President of an emergency management consulting firm. He says the way famous reimbursement programs work local governments have a right to be concerned and coon says while females financial support is a-plus it's not enough given the unprecedented challenges local governments face this year he says FEMA. More to help with the planning effort. Normally, we say every disasters local and they come up with their own plans and that's terrific. Yes. But we you know could have benefited from more collaborative effort to make sure that we're not leaving people behind situation in many scenarios. Emergency managers could rely on traditional congregate shelters along with social distancing CDC recommends shelters, conduct health screenings, and temperature checks provide face coverings and is elite people with symptoms. Public Health experts agree these steps will reduce risk but Dr Emily Landon an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine says going to a Shelter is still something of a gamble. Maybe the eating area isn't quite big enough and you end up having to eat too close to other people and they don't have their masks on and you don't have your masks on because you're eating and they're spread. This year's hurricane season could see large evacuations. Climate Change has made powerful storms more likely and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a more active season. It's difficult to anticipate how that could translate into shelter demand but with the economic crisis somewhere more people than ever could depend on public shelters abby Wendell NPR news.