CDC: Hurricane planning will be different this year amid COVID-19

Agency offers advice for dealing with both severe storms and pandemic

Agency offers advice for dealing with both severe storms and pandemic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering advice on how to plan ahead for the 2020 hurricane season which began Monday.

The agency said this year’s preparation process has been and will continue to pose some unique challenges due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The CDC posted a list of safety tips and guidelines to its website:

  • Give yourself more time than usual to prepare
  • Shop for supplies and obtain prescriptions by delivery whenever possible
  • Monitor local emergency agencies for any notifications about changes to the usual hurricane protocol
  • Assemble an emergency kit including facemasks or other PPE
  • Check on your neighbors while maintaining social distancing guidelines

The agency said it’s also important to know your evacuation zone. The interactive map below was provided to Florida’s State Emergency Response Team by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and shows the color-coded evacuation zones.

The CDC also issued an advisory notice about how to remain as safe as possible while taking shelter in a public hurricane facility.

Duval County’s hurricane safety infrastructure underwent several changes in May due to the threat of COVID-19, including the designation of two facilities for housing those at higher risk of spreading the virus.

Clay County is boosting the amount of space allocated to each person within a hurricane shelter by 100 square feet.

Where 20 square feet was to be allotted for each person and 60 square feet for those with special medical needs, 120 and 160 square feet will now be respectively designated for each person.

“Clay County is fortunate to have the capacity to do this,” Clay County spokeswoman Annaleasa Winter said. "We are working on training and preparing additional district and administration staff to man and operate these additional hurricane shelters during covid virus response.”

Evacuees will also be screened before entering the shelter and asked to wear a facemask while on the premises, according to Winter.

Officials with the Nassau County Emergency Operations Center, told News4Jax enhanced surveillance and infection control procedures will be implemented at its hurricane shelters.

“Emergency shelter planning for this hurricane season will look different because of COVID 19,” Director Greg Foster said. "We are currently in talks with the Nassau County School District in reference to planning for additional space for sheltering to provide for social distancing. In addition, NCEM is currently locating hand sanitizer stations, thermometers, and additional PPE for purchase and use in shelters.

NCEM is also encouraging those who live in evacuation zones to prepare to use public sheltering as a last resort.

In St. Johns County, emergency officials said they’re looking at a variety of shelter options including providing PPE to everyone inside -- and partnering with hotels to maximize isolation and distance.

The Red Cross’ Hurricane Preparedness Checklist can be found by following this link.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.