CDC guidance for those seeking shelter amid severe weather includes: ‘Get a COVID-19 vaccine’

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Perhaps one of the last things the people of Mayfield, Ky., and other American towns and cities were thinking about on Friday as deadly tornadoes bore down on them was finding a COVID-safe shelter, but for the next disaster, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to change that.

The Biden administration seems fixated on a virus that, while still deadly, has greatly receded since March 2020, when then-President Donald Trump, on the advice of his health advisers including Dr. Anthony Fauci, reluctantly recommended a national shutdown for two weeks that has since become a years-long economic nightmare which has left the global supply chain in tatters, the U.S. workforce out of balance, and one of the biggest contributors to runaway inflation in 40 years.

Even in the face of imminent danger, the administration wants Americans to keep COVID-19 top-of-mind and, specifically, the novel coronavirus vaccine.

A tornado information page at Ready.gov, a federal emergency preparedness resource, begins rationally enough: “Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris.”

The page noted that tornadoes can “happen anytime and anywhere,” can generate wind speeds up to 200 mph, and “look like funnels.”

Next, the page instructs users on what to do if they are in the path of a confirmed tornado:

  • Go to NOAA Weather Radio and your local news or official social media accounts for updated emergency information. Follow the instructions of state, local and tribal officials. 
  • Go to a safe shelter immediately, such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or a small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Do not go under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • If you can’t stay at home, make plans to go to a public shelter. 

The last recommendation — the part about not being able to stay at home — where the resource goes off the rails, adding: “Review the CDC’s guidelines for going to a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Let’s look at those guidelines, which are listed under the title: “Going to a Public Disaster Shelter During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“Emergency managers, shelter managers, and public health professionals are taking measures to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 among people who seek safety in a disaster shelter during severe weather events,” the site notes, going on to provide COVID-19 “tips” for use of public shelters in the midst of an approaching, potentially city-destroying tornado:

If you may need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available) and multiple clean masks for everyone age 2 or older. Masks should have two or more layers and fit snugly against your face. They should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.

And no Biden administration emergency preparedness recommendation would be complete without the staple recommendation: Get your vaccine.

“Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. COVID-19 vaccines help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19 and may also help protect people around you,” the CDC site recommends.

In the aftermath of these kinds of deadly disasters is when most people are in need of emergency shelter — say, a high school gymnasium or an auditorium. But conditions are generally cramped because a lot of people tend to need a finite amount of space.

This won’t do, however, for the CDC in the age of COVID:

  • Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet from other people outside of your household.
  • Follow CDC COVID-19 preventive actions—wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and follow shelter policies for wearing masks. Avoid sharing food and drink with anyone if possible.
  • Follow disaster shelter policies and procedures designed to protect everyone in the shelter, especially those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces, such as tabletops, as much as possible. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol immediately after you touch these surfaces.
  • Keep your living area in the shelter clean and disinfect frequently-touched items such as toys, cellphones, and other electronics.

And:

  • The risk of COVID-19 in a public disaster shelter is lower for fully vaccinated people. 

 

 

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Jon Dougherty

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