How to safely take in hurricane evacuees during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 3:34 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In a time of need, we often reach out to those we trust for help and shelter. But while coronavirus concerns are still out there, your family’s evacuation plans may be more challenging.

Isolation and evacuation must go hand in hand as we prepare for a hurricane during a pandemic.

“The virus is not concerned that we have a hurricane coming,” said Governor John Bel Edwards in a press conference on Sunday, Aug. 23.

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Edwards reminds us that COVID-19 safety measures do not go out the window when you board up and take shelter.

“If you’re coming from different households, you need to practice the distancing for the maximum extent possible and the wearing of masks, as well,” the governor said.

That’s because when family and friends evacuate to your home, or you evacuate to theirs, your chances of exposure go up.

“When you go into someone else’s home, you should remember you are going into a new environment,” Dr. Edith Mbagwu, a primary care physician at Ochsner Health, says.

The local doctor says safely evacuating to another home is possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she says it will require a lot more conscious behavior on your part.

“Everybody could, if possible, stay in their own space, in their own rooms. That would help a lot,” she says.

Isolation rooms could keep help reduce the spread of the virus when multiple families are under one roof. You want to pack your own toiletries, too, so you don’t need to share with others.

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“And then, make sure you pack your own personal kit,” Dr. Mbagwu says. “Have a to-go kit ready, so you are not having to share everything with the new family you’re going into.”

That idea even goes for mealtime. Keep the distance and limit family-style dinners.

“Avoid sharing a family meal if you could. And even when you’re sitting in the living room, maintain some sort of social distancing,” she says.

And as you settle into your evacuation shelters, Dr. Mbagwu says you should continue to monitor your fever and other symptoms.

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