Red Cross works with counties to prep for hurricane season, support COVID-19 patients

While Southwest Florida remains out of the forecast cone Thursday, preparing for the next big storm can be stressful. We spoke with two women who say they plan on riding out some hurricanes at home because they are worried about the virus.

The stakes are especially high this hurricane season for those most vulnerable. That’s why Lee County and American Red Cross have put together evacuation plans for people who are at risk and even those who are positive with COVID-19.

“I’m not necessarily interested in going to the shelter,” BJ Brundage said. “I’m at the age where they don’t want me to be out and about.”

Brundage is taking every step to make evacuating in a pandemic her last option.

“We’re putting protection all the way around our house, so we did that probably about six months ago,” Brundage said. “Every window, every opening, my house is now protected. I don’t want to leave. I really don’t feel like I have to, other than for a surge.”

Her goal is to ensure her home is storm ready.

“I plan on staying right here,” Brundage said.

But the Red Cross said that if an evacuation was called for, people can feel safe.

“At Red Cross shelters, we have some additional spacing requirements,” said Jill Palmer, the executive director of the Florida Gulf Coast Heartland chapter of American Red Cross. “We will put into place as far as keeping people appropriately distanced.”

American Red Cross supports county efforts during emergencies. Red Cross says evacuees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Even those quarantining or positive for COVID-19 will have somewhere to stay.

“They’ll probably change some of the food preparations areas just to kind of keep people as safe and decrease the potential spread of COVID-19,” said Robert Hawkes, director of the FGCU physician assistant program.

Hawkes says now is the time to get ready for that possibility.

“Bring a mask if you will need to go to shelter, plenty of hand sanitizer but also making sure they have ample supplies of their medications,” Hawkes said.

Marcia Merryfield says after going through Hurricane Charley, she learned her lesson. I went to the store Tuesday and I broke my cardinal rule and stocked up. But she will be heading out, even with the pandemic, if a storm turns nasty.

“If it’s a four or five, we’re outta here,” Merryfield said.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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