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COVID-19 Brings Unique Challenges to Hurricane Season

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health

Note: This story, which originally ran back at the beginning of hurricane season, has been updated to mention Tropical Storm Isaias. Check back to this story for further updates.

Lee Health Officials Update Response Plan, Urge Vigilance

The 2020 Hurricane Season is now in full swing as Tropical Storm Isaias makes its way toward Florida. The current forecast shows the storm's winds may make at least some impact on the state with the potential for effects felt in Southwest Florida.

It's important to remember that the forecast shows potential tropical storm-force winds and not hurricane-force winds. Still, our area could see some rain and wind, and the storm is a good reminder that the season is just getting warmed up. 

This on top of other potential storms this season couldn't happen at a worse time thanks to COVID-19. Lee Health officials are monitoring TS Isaias and are in constant contact with the Lee County Emergency Operations Center and the National Weather Service.

“While we hope to have a quiet hurricane season, we cannot predict what this year’s season will bring,” said Lee Health President & CEO Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA, back in June as the season began. “As always, safety for our patients and our community members is our main concern in any year, but especially during the pandemic. We must continue to be prepared to care for our community before, during, and after any storm.”

Lee Health has updated the plans and logistics of its typical hurricane response plan to reflect the added challenges of COVID-19.

For example, the new COVID-19 Hurricane Response Plan limits the number of people granted access to Lee Health hospitals to reduce the risk of viral transmission within its facilities, and to ensure patient and staff safety.

Hurricane shelters an ‘option of last resort’

Lee Mayfield, Lee County’s director of public safety and emergency management, recommends that if you live in a well-built home that is located inland and away from any flood zones, to shelter in place depending on the severity of the storm.

If you are forced from your home, try to stay at a friend’s house or at an inland hotel or motel that’s also out of the storm surge area, he suggests.

"We really want to double-down on the message this year that if you're farther inland, and if you're not in an evacuation zone and you live in a newer, well-built home, then we'd like you to consider staying at home and sheltering in your home,” Mayfield told CJ Haddad of the Breeze Newspapers. "Our hurricane shelters should be that option of last resort," he said, citing the need to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections.

Essentials of a hurricane supply kit

Here are some important things to consider as you prepare for the hurricane season:

  • Check your first aid kit and restock if necessary.
  • Include in your hurricane supplies enough disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers and be ready to social distance at least 6 feet apart if you are not with immediate family members.
  • Include sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Be sure you have refills of your prescriptions. Florida law allows pharmacies to fill prescriptions in advance during hurricane warnings.
  • Think ahead about preserving refrigerated drugs, like insulin, in case the power goes out. In an emergency, you can reach out to the Red Cross or poison control for assistance in determining the safety of a drug.
  • Know the details of your medical equipment, including the size, manufacturer, and company and account numbers.
  • Stock up on batteries, especially if you require batteries that need to be special ordered.
  • Consider medical supplies, including catheters and dressings, as well as dietary restrictions, and be sure you have appropriate supplies and options available.
  • Build or restock your disaster kit, which should include food, water, flashlights, batteries, chargers, cash and first aid supplies.
  • Scan important documents, such as medication logs, insurance papers, etc., and store them on a flash drive in a safety deposit box. Lee Health uses Epic, so our patients have one seamless, electronic health record across the health system. Your records remain safe and private while still being available to medical staff.
  • Here are some online resources to help your preparations: www.cityftmyers.com/DocumentCenter/View/8596/Community-Emergency-Preparedness-Guide and www.winknews.com/hurricane-guide

Meanwhile, emergency management officials with Lee, Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, and Hendry counties continue to refine hurricane emergency plans that include social distancing measures to protect residents while preventing the spread of the coronavirus in crowded evacuation shelters.

Determining whether you or your loved ones need access to a special needs shelter is one of the most important things to do to prepare for hurricane season. Lee Health hospitals and facilities are not hurricane shelters.

If you or your loved one requires assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter, you must preregister with Lee County Emergency Management.

Visit www.leegov.com/publicsafety/emergencymanagement for more information on special needs shelters, as well as the locations of public shelters.