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CDC issues special guidance on how to deal with both hurricanes and the coronavirus

Hurricanes are bad enough by themselves, but COVID-19 means that shelters, pets, and ‘go kits’ should be given extra consideration

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With tropical storm Isaias positioned to regain hurricane strength as it heads towards the Carolinas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued preparedness measures for anyone who might be in harm’s way. 

The CDC, you ask? Yes, because during this hurricane season, the agency feels special emphasis needs to be placed on safely preparing, evacuating, and sheltering for storms while protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.

The checklist for both a hurricane and a pandemic

With the coronavirus acting as a difference maker, the CDC lays out four essential additions to its regular preparedness checklist: 

  • Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. The CDC says home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies, but it understands that doing so may not be an option for everyone due to the timeline of the storm’s predicted landfall and current coronavirus-related showdowns. If in-person shopping is the only available choice, the CDC says to take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.

  • Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Again, it’s a time-sensitive issue, but anyone in a typical hurricane season region should sign up for mail order delivery or call in their prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available, to add a layer of protection.

  • Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including shelters for your pets.

  • When checking on friends and neighbors, don’t forget to follow social distancing guidelines and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.

Be ready for evacuation

The ready-or-not attitude when it comes to hurricanes is a chief reason why the CDC says that people should take a look at their existing “go kit” and make sure it has coronavirus-related additions.

On top of the typical personal items that anyone can’t do without during an emergency, the agency says to add coronavirus essentials such as hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes, and two cloth face coverings for each person. 

Other points the CDC wants people to take to heart include the following:

  • Pre-determine a safe place to shelter and have several ways to receive weather alerts, such as National Weather Service cell phone alerts.

  • In case you need to evacuate your home and go to a local shelter, make sure you find out in advance if it’s going to be open. Shelters' locations may be different this year due to the pandemic.

  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy while you're there during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • If you have pets, make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for them. Find out if your disaster shelter will accept pets. Pets are typically housed in a separate area from people if a shelter accommodates them, but you should know this in advance to save time and trouble.

Staying with family or friends

Staying with friends or family in situations like these can be comforting, but the CDC cautions people that they still need to be vigilant no matter how well they think they know their kin or friends.

Talk to the people you plan to stay with about how you can all best protect yourselves from COVID-19, the CDC suggests. Also, take a hard look at who you might be sheltering with and give special consideration if either household has someone who is at a higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults or people of any age who have underlying medical conditions. 

The everyday preventive actions such as covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands cannot take a back seat to the hurricane, and the CDC emphasizes that these measures should be continued without fail.

The agency brings up one point that most people might not consider -- that both disasters and pandemic outbreaks can be emotionally stressful. 

“It is natural to feel anxiety, grief, and worry,” the CDC says. “Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover.”

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