CAPE CORAL, Fla -- We're just days away from the official start of hurricane season, and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges when it comes to emergency management preparations.
One of the biggest focuses right now is shelters. The process is going to look different this year to help eliminate further spread of the virus. It's one of many things we'll be talking about during tonight's special report: Shielding you from the storm. It will air at 6:30 p.m.
Fox 4 has been speaking with the emergency management teams for all of our Southwest Florida counties as they prepare for storm season amid the pandemic.
The big message by far has actually been one they preach every year, which is that evacuating to a shelter should never be your first option. Now more than ever with the pandemic and need for social distancing, they say it's important that those who can safely shelter-in-place consider doing so. If not, have a plan to evacuate to a family or friend's home or a hotel.
However, for those who do ultimately have to evacuate to a shelter, a number of preparations are underway to make sure it's not only safe to weather a storm, but also the pandemic.
Charlotte County emergency management leaders say they are looking to increase square footage at shelters, while also implementing screening measures and encouraging face coverings.
Registration at shelters will be another challenge, and you should expect longer, spaced out lines to implement social distancing. Plus, plan to allow extra time for that screening of COVID-19 symptoms.
Lee County emergency leaders say they're also considering opening more shelters than they usually would to make sure people have enough distance for themselves and their families in a shelter environment.
And when it comes to screening for the virus, the county said it's also looking into ways to safely isolate those with symptoms. They also plan to have additional cleaning at each shelter.
Charlotte County emergency leaders add that due to the pandemic, they've also been unable to do their typical public outreach at civic groups and organizations. Instead, they're relying on public service announcements and partnerships like tonight's hurricane special to get this message and more out there.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 6:30 to make sure you and your family have all of the information you need to stay safe during storm season, especially amid the pandemic.