St. Johns County emergency management preparing for hurricane season amid COVID19 health crisis

St. Johns County plan on facing pandemic during hurricane season

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Emergency management directors are now working with a set of guidelines that don’t typically make it into storm planning.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations will play a huge role in how storm shelters open and how EOCs are staffed.

Jeanne Johns is no stranger to hurricanes.

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She rode out Matthew and Irma in Davis Shores.

For Dorian, she was a little more prepared after having flood gates installed.

“We were hoping to see a real test, but it only came up like right up to the edge,” said Johns.

As Jeanne prepares her home this year, across town, the emergency operations center is also preparing.

St. Johns County has a total of 15 shelters.

Interim emergency director Joe Giammanco said that during Matthew and Irma they didn’t need to open every single shelter.

“We have certain ones that open right away and as need dictates, we can easily and quickly open up additional resources,” said Giammanco.

Those who need housing at a storm shelter will need to be screened for symptoms and wear masks.

“We will isolate people into certain areas so there’s not going to be any mixing of COVID positive and the general population so that’s a big challenge for us,” said Giammanco.

Another challenge is staffing the EOC itself.

“We’re going to try to limit the number of people without reducing any of the expectation of services for the community,” said Giammanco.