LIHU‘E — Padraic Gallagher of the American Red Cross on Kaua‘i and his group of volunteers continue to plan their disaster protocol in the face of COVID-19.
Gallagher, ARC manager of disaster services for Kaua‘i, started preparing for a situation like Hurricane Douglas in the wake of the COVID-19 in early March.
Douglas is expected to either weaken to a tropical storm or remain a category 1 hurricane by the time it’s projected to impact Kaua‘i late today or early Monday morning.
Kaua‘i has 17 shelter locations, and will have strict guidelines for residents and visitors seeking shelter from Douglas, and potential future disasters.
Three of those shelters will be opening Sunday, starting at 2 p.m. — Kilauea Neighborhood Center, Koloa Neighborhood Center and Kauai Community College. Gallagher said Sunday morning that there are three other shelters ready on standby, and those shelters will be opened as needed.
Some of the ARC partners such as Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps, Kaua‘i Christian Fellowship and Kaua‘i Community College have offered additional facilities for residents and visitors if the Red Cross needs to utilize extra space.
A significant change in hurricane shelters anticipated to affect accommodations’ capacities is the need for physical separation in shelters.
Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, the standard operating procedure was vastly different than the new approach.
The distance in shelters will expand from 10 to 60 square feet for each family.
Residents and visitors seeking refuge will also have to answer various health-related questions in a screening.
There will be 10 health-related questions designed to pre-screen people who potentially could have COVID-19.
People running a temperature of over 100.7 degrees will be required to be in isolation rooms set up in various shelters.
Gallagher said the isolation rooms wouldn’t be medically sealed, and will vary depending on the shelter.
Shelter residents will be required to wear personal protective equipment, including face masks and face shields, to stay in the shelter.
The personal protective equipment required will be supplied by various partners of the Red Cross, who will also donate some of it. They will also have hand-sanitizing stations.
A face shield will be provided to people with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.
On Kaua‘i, the North Shore has been profoundly impacted by recent natural disasters because of the island’s terrain.
The Garden Island reported that Gallagher worked with the county to secure $20,000 in grant money for containers and supplies for disaster mitigation on the North Shore.
Some money also went to purchase blankets and cots, and for North Shore volunteer-recruitment efforts.
The North Shore currently has two places to seek shelter: Kilauea School and Kilauea Neighborhood Center.
“It is always tough with most of the shore behind Hanalei because it is in a flood zone,” Gallagher said.
Another problem may be related to pets. During the hurricane, because of the COVID-19 protocols, pets will be separated from their owners, with only service animals allowed with their owners.
The pets will be sent to the Kaua‘i Humane Society shelter near Puhi.
“All service pets need to be crated, and will be in a separate room from the clients,” Gallagher said. “Comfort animals and support animals are considered pets by the state of Hawai‘i and will be considered as pets in the shelter.”
The Red Cross needs new volunteers because so many of the existing volunteers have pre-existing conditions that put them in high-risk groups.
Gallagher emphasizes that everyone should be vigilant during the era of the pandemic.
“A shelter is a microcosm of the world, and that world is condensed into a small location where people are close together,” Gallagher said.
“Everything you do in a shelter is affecting everyone in a natural environment without a contagious disease. Even though we live on an island, we must remember that no person is an island, and must understand that catching COVID-19 is more difficult than following some of the protocols.”
This story has been edited for clarity.
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.