LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Hospitals across Southwest Louisiana have made significant modifications to their hurricane preparations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
CHRISTUS Ochsner Southwest Louisiana has been on the front lines fighting against the virus as cases increase across the state, but now hurricane season is an added concern.
“I definitely think it is a strong possibility that we can have both of these events coincide with each other,” Emergency Services Clinical Director Candice Thibodeaux said. “Regardless of my personal feelings, as a part of emergency preparedness I think that we should always prepare for the worst event possible and then hope that our planning will prevent that event from occurring.”
Preparing for the worst means preparing for the public’s response, Thibodeaux said.
“We definitely have decided that there’s going to be some huge modifications, not only from the hospital response but probably how the public is going to respond to any orders of sheltering in place or any orders of evacuation,” Thibodeaux said. “From an emergency department standpoint, we have to be prepared for that.”
Shelters will look different this year due to CDC distancing guidelines, Thibodeaux said.
“One of the things we’ve decided to do is trying to look at what shelters will look like for the region,” Thibodeaux said. “Usually, there’s a percentage of square footage you have to have per person in order to open a shelter, and with CDC social distancing guidelines we definitely those shelters are going to be larger and require more space per person in order for them to operate safely.”
Despite everything that’s happening, hurricane preparation is a priority.
“The loss of life due to a hurricane event is obviously going to take priority over any other event so although we’re all being equally being affected by COVID, we are able to pull resources from other regions in order to help us,” Thibodeaux said.
CHRISTUS Ochsner SWLA is currently working with officials to make sure shelters are compliant with the new CDC guidelines so when a shelter opens, all aspects of the pandemic will be accounted for to make sure everyone is safe.