Volume 13 | June 2020
Aligning Action for Health
The LA-HRH interviewed Dr. Stephen Murphy, PhD, about the challenges of the 2020 Hurricane Season coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Murphy is an Assistant Professor at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine; Department of Environmental Health Sciences; and Program Director of the MPH degree in Disaster Management. His expertise includes emergency management and public health emergency preparedness and response.

Excerpts from that interview are included below. For the full interview, click here .

What should residents of areas threatened by hurricanes be doing to prepare?
Beyond what is typical in hurricane planning, everyone should remember the unique needs posed by Covid-19 such as disinfectants, soap, sanitizer, masks, and gloves. Residents should examine evacuation plans and have multiple destinations if possible. Also understand what an accelerated timeline would do to your plan (e.g., consider fueling vehicle earlier, be ready to leave earlier, and have different routes for each potential destination). Pay attention to authorities throughout hurricane season and heed their warnings.

Stocking supplies, whether for an evacuation or shelter-in-place strategy, is an equity issue. Low income populations might have greater needs, fewer locations to obtain resources, or even fewer financial resources to meet those needs. Jurisdictions, response organizations and other stakeholders active in disasters should continue, and increase when possible, their strong support to these groups as part of preparedness planning.

Given the concerns regarding Covid-19 and increasing cases in some areas, residents may feel reluctant to evacuate. Should this be a factor in decision-making for individual residents?
Bottom line – no, the overarching message remains the same for residents – get out of harm’s way. If you live in an area susceptible to storms or are ordered to evacuate, do not let Covid-19 influence your decision to get out of the storm’s path and impact zone. If there is a major hurricane bearing down on your city, the magnitude of that hurricane is a much greater, immediate risk to life than the spread of a pandemic.

What should public health emergency response leaders prioritize in preparation for sheltering residents?
It is important for planners in hurricane-prone cities to explore locations where they can set up an easily modifiable, general population shelter. Planners should consider expanding the number of shelter locations so (a) they have existing agreements when the time arises, and (b) to provide the recommended physical distancing element needed for Covid-19. A single shelter might not meet basic protective measures for the pandemic and planners should assess this – and assess it now. Earlier in the pandemic, many hotels were vacant but now that most of the Gulf Coast has reopened those options are less available. Regardless of where the shelter operates, emergency planners/operators need to 'de-densify' congregate shelters open for evacuation as soon as possible.

Are there specific assessments emergency planners should consider at shelter locations?
Several small tweaks to typical assessments can serve as helpful reminders in the current climate.

  • Do facilities have the space to safely shelter residents with physical distancing in mind? Has the layout actually been considered and mapped out to ensure sleeping cots are not too closely positioned to one another? For example, a staggered, head-to-toe arrangement has been proposed as helpful in reducing exposure to neighboring respirations.
  • What is known about the facility’s air exchange capacity? Does the facility owner know the specification of the system? Who can assess this at a shelter?

Evidence suggests that smaller particles (aerosols) pose increased risk in areas lacking proper, adequate ventilation or ones with poor air exchange. A congregate sheltering strategy in a poorly ventilated facility might be problematic and ill-advised. You have to ask yourself - When was the last time you visited a gymnasium or large assembly hall – typical large spaces used in shelter strategies – where you felt it was well ventilated?
How Can We Support You?
Our recovery from COVID-19, hurricanes, and other natural disasters is strengthened when we work together, share resources, and identify and respond to needs of impacted communities, particularly communities impacted by inequities.
We want to hear from you: what assistance do you need to address your organization’s needs and those of the communities you serve?  Examples of assistance include:

  • Facilitating connections to people or organizations
  • Providing access to training and educational opportunities
  • Identifying relevant resources

We are working with the CDC, Tulane University School of Public Health, and other state and federal partners to address your needs.
Your feedback is important. Please email us directly ( mlackovic@lphi.org or kepps@lphi.org ) or fill out a request form here . The form is also available in Spanish here .
Training Information
LPHI utilizes Tulane's Learning Management System (LMS) to provide free online hurricane, emergency, and public health preparedness-related courses. TRAIN Learning Network is another platform that offers courses for public health, healthcare, behavioral health, preparedness, and other health professionals.

Those interested in taking LMS trainings can fill out and submit the new user form here . Please note that new accounts may take up to one business day (24 hours) for approval. Once an account has been set up, users have access to the full library of trainings. For information on TRAIN courses, click here .

Courses listed below are through LMS, unless otherwise noted, and include but a re not limited to:

The Region IV Public Health Training Center is hosting a webinar titled " Crisis on Top of Crisis: Guidance for Disaster Shelters during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Communicating the Health Message to the Public" on
Thursday, July 2, from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. CDT. During this webinar, CDC experts will discuss special considerations for general population hurricane shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic and how community leaders, nonprofit organizations, and public health professionals can effectively communicate messages. They will also share hurricane resources and educational materials you can use and distribute within your own communities. Those interested in attending can register here .

Additional courses are being created and will be announced as they become available. More frequent updates are available via the LA-HRH Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Special Edition of The Hub Speaks
NNPHI has released the June edition of The Hub Speaks , a publication that is part of our partnership with the National Coordinating Center for Public Health at NNPHI and several other partners across the country.

The issue includes:

  • A compelling article on how this year’s hurricane season will be unique and different from previous years
  • Impactful learning opportunities available at your fingertips for hurricane readiness and recovery
  • A discussion about the challenges of sheltering amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and how we have to think outside the box to best prepare
  • CDC guidance to inform the general population about safe sheltering practices in the midst of the pandemic

… and so much MORE!
Funding for this project has been provided to the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) through a Cooperative Agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – NU1ROT000004-01-00). NNPHI is collaborating with the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health on this project. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The LPHI, founded in 1997, is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit and public health institute that translates evidence into strategy to optimize health ecosystems. Our work focuses on uncovering complementary connections across sectors to combine the social, economic, and human capital needed to align action for health. We champion health for people, within systems, and throughout communities because we envision a world where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy. For more information, visit www.lphi.org .