(KTRE) - When it comes to preparing for the impact any strong storm could have on the Pineywoods, the COVID-19 pandemic creates challenges.
“Oh, totally more challenging now just simply because what we’re dealing with with COVID,” Angelina County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Conner said. “It’s going to be a trying time. Because most our volunteers are tied up with this COVID stuff.”
For smaller counties like Sabine, Emergency Management Coordinator Kerwin Lloyd says they are presented with fortunate circumstances.
“We have under 10 active cases,” he said. So, we haven’t been affected like some of the surrounding counties.”
Officials say sheltering from a storm during the pandemic can vary from counties like Angelina and Sabine.
“Sabine County is a passing county,” Lloyd said. We don’t operate any shelters. We try to keep them moving north. It was a big issue a big concern especially during Harvey because of the influx of people. Our gas stations and grocery stores are emptied out.”
“It’s going to a challenging issue as far as how many people we can shelter or if we do have to shelter,” Conner said. “We’ll reach out to the Red Cross.”
“The mission of the American Red Cross hasn’t changed,” executive director of the American Red Cross’ Southeast and East Texas Chapter Chester Jourdan said. “The way we carry out that mission has changed.”
He says some of those changes include providing PPE, additional sanitation protocols, screening for COVID-19, isolation units for possible positive patients and where and how to shelter.
“Our primary choices are hotels, campgrounds and college dormitories,” American Red Cross’ East Texas Chapter’s Disaster Program Manager Scott Brawley said. “Once all those venues are filled, then we go back to the old non-congregate fashion, where we might use some of the gymnasiums that we’ve used before but we’ve increased the square footage per person. We’ve over doubled it to make sure social distancing reinforced.”
The organization says hotel bills are paid for with red cross donations and help from churches, local business and more. shelters will now hold about 2/3 of their normal capacity in compliance of CDC guidelines. Despite the situation, they say they are ready.
“East Texans know how to get it done,” Brawley said. “And if something bad happens this summer, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’re going to pull together even tighter to take care of everybody that needs to be taken care of.”
“Don’t wait until the last minute to try to prepare,” Conner said. “Start now.”
Quick links to help become prepared in the event of an emergency-Click here.
American Red Cross is seeking volunteers. Call (409) 242 8476