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Major hurricane more dangerous than COVID-19 to New Orleans residents, leaders say

“If there is a major hurricane bearing down on this city, the magnitude of that hurricane is much greater to the risk of life than the spread of a pandemic."

NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans will spend the summer braced for two very different threats. As hurricane season begins Monday, the city faces the added complication of COVID-19.

“This will be unprecedented; meaning, being in hurricane season in the midst of a pandemic,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell, at a news conference that brought together representatives from the New Orleans Police Department, Health Department, Army Corps of Engineers, Sewerage and Water Board, Department of Homeland Security and others.

All departments say the pandemic hasn’t stopped preparations for hurricane season.

The Health Department has re-surveyed all sheltering sites to allow for social distancing. It has also ensured all nursing homes have generators.

The Sewerage and Water Board says all 99 drainage pumps are working, although one turbine and some other equipment are out of commission. The board says it is now focusing on keeping open canals clean.

NOPD says all but two members of the force are back at work after COVID-19, and all water rescue equipment and boats are ready.

Still, the city wants residents to do their part, because ‘safest at home’ may not stay that way.

“What I’m adding in this year, my concern that people will be more afraid of COVID than they are of a major hurricane, and that is wrong,” said Collin Arnold, of the Department of Homeland Security. “If there is a major hurricane bearing down on this city, the magnitude of that hurricane is much greater to the risk of life than the spread of a pandemic.”

The city suggests you should add masks and sanitizers to an evacuation kit, and work COVID-19 prevention into your plan to keep your family safe.

“If we have to evacuate this year, the main theme of this is going to be social distancing and PPE. And I’m talking about medical-grade PPE. Everyone who participates in the city assisted evacuation will be in an N-95 mask,” said Arnold.

The city has not been able to do in-person registration for the New Orleans Special Needs Registry because of the pandemic. If you have a family member or friend with special medical needs, the Health Department wants to get that person registered or their information updated in the system.

The city is still taking volunteers for the NOLA Ready Corps and the New Orleans Medical Reserve Corps.

For more information on hurricane planning, go to getagameplan.org.

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