State officials stress COVID-19 fears should not stop hurricane evacuations

State officials prepare for the start of hurricane season

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The COVID-19 pandemic is adding a layer of uncertainty to the hurricane season preparation. FOX 8 finds out how the state plans to deal with storms and a pandemic.

With our acres of wetlands, canals, lakes and river deltas Louisiana’s unique geography means hurricane planning is always in flux according to Mike Steele, The Governor’s Communications Director for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP).

Steele said, “So much of the coast is vulnerable probably more so than any other state in the country so there’s always adjustments that have to be made.”

This year COVID-19 brings another variable.

"What is new is dealing with all the PPE (personal protective equipment) requirements, the spacing issues that may be needed our transportation in with sheltering and then some of the other health concerns associated with this risk," said Steele.

He believes the state is ready, but the most important step will come from citizens themselves.

Steele said, “Emergency management starts with our individuals and families. It goes through the local officials and up to the state officials and we can reach out to FEMA, but every step in that process needs to be thought about and people need to do their part to make sure that system works."

Rubby Douglas is a section leader at GOHSEP. She said, “Think practical because you know the states not the only game in the business, I mean it starts with protecting the things to stay safe and what’s important to you.” Which includes adding masks, disinfectants and sanitizer to your hurricane kit.

Douglas said, “We need to consider that everybody has COVID-19 and there are a lot of cases that are asymptomatic so the state is going to do its part in making sure that our folks are protected, but it starts at the individual level.”

Steele says the state has sufficient PPE stockpiles for shelters. The plan also includes additional shelter space for social distancing and separation of people that may be positive for COVID-19.

He said, "The unfortunate thing is just because you're concerned about this pandemic doesn't mean that storm surge isn't going to happen."

He wants to make sure no one let’s fear of the COVID-19 virus keep them in harm’s way when it comes to a storm.

The state encourages everyone physically and financially able to plan evacuations on their own as early as possible.

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