HOUSTON – Local and federal officials are in hurricane preparation mode as two weather systems are brewing in the Gulf, and the city continues to fight against coronavirus. Mayor Sylvester Turner said health precautions, such as health checks and social distancing, will be implemented if residents are forced to evacuate to shelters.
“Tracks are uncertain. Be weather alert. Be prepared,” Turner said in a press conference Friday afternoon.
He urged residents to establish a hurricane survival plan this weekend ahead of the storms. With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, families should also gather multiple masks for each person, antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer as part of their evacuation kits, Turner said.
Likewise, former Former FEMA Acting Deputy Administrator, Carlos Castillo, said FEMA has adjusted it’s hurricane preparedness to also include masks for children 2-years-old and older as well as disinfectant.
In addition to added guidance from FEMA to local entities, FEMA has worked on expanding its efforts to provide resources.
“FEMA established an additional National Response Coordination center which is physically located across the street from FEMA headquarters, so there is the ability to expand if necessary,” Castillo said.
Locally, Turner said PPE resources will be used in any first responder services during the weather event. Residents are encouraged to use PPE. Residents should also consider getting tested this weekend to decrease community spread as extended families may have to shelter-in-place or at public shelters.
“You would be selfish not to if you go to shelter and etc. and do not know your status,” Turner said.
Since the number of people getting tested as decreased in recent weeks, officials said the lines are not as long. Some testing locations offer on-site registration, no appointment needed.
City departments are reviewing and prepping for community-wide response plans. Officials will wear PPE, regularly disinfection high-touch areas, and follow all COVID-19 related health safety practices, Turner said.
If needed, the George R. Brown Convention Center will be staged as an evacuation hub, Turner said. Additional shelters and hotel rooms will be available if required.
“We are preparing for worst, hoping for best,” Turner said.
Houston Health Department also reported 467 new cases of coronavirus within the city, bringing the total to 59,871. The city also announced 17 new deaths, bringing the death count to 696 people.
Harris County OEM officials said they are watching the weather closely and are urging residents to do the same.
“Only slightly concerned about surge evacuations, slightly concerned about rain, but the wind portion is what we’re seeing could be very problematic, so that’s what we are planning for right now,” Francisco Sanchez, Harris County OEM, said.