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Acting Director of Emergency Medical Services at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Kurdell Espinosa Campbell, says that as part of emergency shelter protocols, persons who wish to use the facilities will be screened and risk-stratified before entering.

“So, if you have a respiratory type illness, you will automatically be isolated to an area and transferred to a hospital, and, of course, during the process of staying in a shelter, depending on whether you need a short-term stay or a longer period of time, there will be a schedule drawn up for persons to use the common areas and the recreational areas,” she noted.

Dr. Espinosa Campbell, who was addressing a digital town hall hosted by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development on July 23, said the Health Ministry is pleased with the shelter protocols that have been put in place.

Among the objectives of the shelter protocols is ensuring that social distancing is maintained, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

In this vein, the Health Ministry has recommended that persons seeking shelter for less than 18 hours, should stay a minimum of four and one-half feet apart. For persons seeking long-term shelter, the spacing is six feet apart, with family members being grouped close together.

For his part, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson, said that isolation rooms, which will be in place at all approved emergency shelters across the island, will prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the facilities in the event of a hurricane.

“The local authorities have gone through, they have done all the shelter assessments, we have all the shelters in place, and every single shelter that will be operated throughout the hurricane season must have an isolation area. We don’t want to have a situation where we are responding to a hurricane but while doing so we are increasing the number of COVID-19 cases on the island by not having all the protocols observed and having an outbreak in a shelter,” Mr. Thompson argued.

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