COVID-19 Forces Kentucky Red Cross to 'Adapt and Overcome'
The American Red Cross has deployed some Kentuckians to Texas and Louisiana to assist with relief efforts following Hurricane Laura, which hit the Gulf Coast last week.
The Category 4 hurricane made landfall last Thursday just south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, packing 150-mph winds and a storm surge that officials said was as high as 15 feet in some areas. At least 18 people were killed.
The coronavirus pandemic is changing how the Red Cross responds to disasters. While COVID-19 hasn't changed the agency's mission, it has changed how missions are carried out. For instance, instead of mass shelters, the displaced are being housed in hotels and dormitories.
“We try to keep the people isolated, and even feeding is different. We don’t dish out meals now, we prepare them meals that we deliver," said volunteer Terry Reagan with the South Central Kentucky chapter of the American Red Cross. "We want people to be safe after the recovery, and after they get back into their homes.”
About a dozen volunteers from the South Central Kentucky chapter are on the ground in Texas and Louisiana, while others are still providing relief from flooding in Iowa and wildfires in California.
Jason Dotson, Disaster Program Manager with the Kentucky Red Cross, is currently working as a government operations liasion between the relief agency and state and local emergency management agencies. He would normally be in California, but COVID-19 has required him to work virtually from Kentucky.
"I would be on the ground in a headquarters someplace talking to someone face to face. To be honest, that might be a little easier because I can't just walk across the room right now. I have to find the right file someplace," Dotson told WKU Public Radio. "We adapt and overcome. It's what we do."
Reagan says monetary donations, rather than supplies, are the best way for the public to assist in disaster relief efforts. That allows communities to pay for things based on their individual needs.