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Coronavirus concerns could change procedures at hurricane shelters

Florence intensifies, Hurricane Warnings issued
Posted at 2:48 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 16:38:12-04

FORT MYERS, Fla-- The combination of hurricane season and COVID-19 has many people asking questions specifically about safety concerns at evacuation shelters this year.

“Some of the big changes we may be looking at is opening more shelters to allow for more spacing and social distancing,” said Director of Lee County Emergency Management Lee Mayfield.

Mayfield added some of the other changes could include people wearing face masks, additional cleaning, and health-related screening questions. That would be if someone had symptoms of the virus during registration–– they could be separated from others.

“Looking at areas of the shelter that could be used for those folks–– this is something we have in our toolbox all of the time," said Mayfield.

In Charlotte County— their plan also includes things like face masks and some form of social distancing. Other parts of the state have mentioned using hotels as a shelter alternative to keep people safe and distanced from each other. However, Emergency Management Director Patrick Fuller said they looked into this option, but the number of people versus rooms didn't add up.

“I think hotels could only bridge a small gap of the shelter capacity," said Fuller. "There aren’t as many hotels as we would need, our shelters we don’t even have enough of on a regular-season”

Both county leaders stressed that shelters every year— but especially this year— should be a last resort.

“Please don’t use shelters as your first option," urged Fuller." Please plan ahead of time where you can evacuate if asked to.”

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