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Coronavirus in Florida

Statewide emergency hurricane shelter plan to consider COVID-19 complications

Community shelters pose risks to new COVID-19 outbreaks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Cabinet approved the 2020 statewide emergency shelter plan Thursday, weeks ahead of Florida’s hurricane season.

Submitted Jan. 31, the plan serves as a guide to determine new public school, college and university campuses that can be used as hurricane evacuation shelters.

DeSantis and his Cabinet, who are meeting for the first time since February, also discussed the need for a cautious approach to hurricane shelters in light of the COVID-19 pipeline.

Everyone has COVID-19 on their mind and hurricane season has been on our mind since early March,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. “COVID-19 is going to present additional challenges for sheltering. We’ve been working in consultation with the CDC, FEMA and the American Red Cross.”

One of the biggest changes this year for the state’s emergency shelter plan will be the addition of non-congregate sheltering.

Moskowitz said he worked with FEMA to arrange shelter structures such as preselected hotels ahead of a storm’s landfall.

Last week, former Federal Emergency Management Administration Director Craig Fugate harped on the risks associated with shelter sites during the pandemic.

“Anytime we move people from one area of the state to another, anytime we’re interacting with the public, all the things we’re going to see in a disaster, one person in the wrong circumstances spreading COVID-19 could cause a blowup,” Fugate said. “And in a disaster, it would be even worse because of the impacts to health care and other already stressed industries.”

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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