Florida is already preparing for Hurricane Season, but this year it's preparing a little differently.
While COVID-19 has required millions of people around the country to shelter in place for health reasons, us Floridians are no stranger to spending a few days cooped up in a house during hurricane season. (And don't forget, we usually stay home without electricity or the internet, so this has been a veritable vacation for those who are healthy and can work from home.) However, what's becoming concerning is the idea that not only will our immunocompromised and elderly populations continue to be stuck at home, but they'll also be facing a possible shortage of access to medical supplies if an active hurricane season does rear its ugly head.
For those who aren't from Florida, typically an active hurricane season isn't too much to worry about in northeast Florida. We might have our share of power outages and days off of school, but for the most part we're built to weather the storm. Many safety measures are already put in place to ensure our most vulnerable populations are prepared prior to the storm hitting.
But with an uptick in the use of medical supplies and, oftentimes, a hoarding mentality when it comes to masks, gloves, toilet paper, and other commonly used respiratory medical supplies, the state of Florida is trying to prepare for hurricane season now.
Another concern is the ability of hotels to host residents in floods zones traveling inland. While they may be legally allowed to accept guests, it poses the problem of trying to keep large groups of people out of harm's way - safe from the storm and safe from illness which can easily spread in large groups of people.
"We have a lot of (hurricane) experience here in Florida, especially over the last four years. But how do we change that? How do we modify it to take COVID-19 and the challenges that that poses, especially if we have an earlier storm in the June and July season?” Governor DeSantis asked.
Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said they're restructuring evacuation plans, reconsidering shelters, and adding facemasks to the state's necessary storm supplies stockpile list.
“We're going to have 10 million masks in reserve by the time the hurricane season starts,” Moskowitz said. “And we signed a long-term deal with Honeywell to help get us 12 million N95 masks over the next year directly from the manufacturing plant, with a significant portion of that being delivered during hurricane season.”
Separating those who are seeking shelter, no matter where the shelter, as well as temperature checks for those sheltering together will be one of the first new protocols. If you're used to piling into a hotel room until the storm passes, you will have to change plans this year. If you need extra medical supplies, especially masks and gloves, now is the time to begin seeking and building a supply. And even more importantly, if you are not immunocompromised or elder, do not purchase more than you absolutely need of anything.
Lastly, if you are home during this pandemic, it's a great time to prepare your property for hurricane season. Trim trees, tie down free-standing fixtures in your yard, reinforce garage door tracks, and begin gathering hurricane supplies like batteries, canned foods, and water.
Review and re-check the updated hurricane safety guidelines at floridadisaster.org this hurricane season regularly, and keep in touch with loved ones who might need your help!