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CEMA says in evacuation, getting people to safety will be priority regardless of vaccination status

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 4:53 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s a question that may be on your mind as we track three tropical systems - will your vaccination status matter if you have to evacuate due to a hurricane?

WTOC reached out to Chatham Emergency Management to see what’s changed as the COVID-19 situation has evolved this summer.

COVID was around during last years hurricane season, so potentially evacuating in a pandemic is something CEMA says they’re prepared for.

“Last year we put in protective measures in order to be able to safely evacuate people out of the county while still in that COVID environment,” said CEMA Director Dennis Jones.

Jones says that means people will still report to an evacuation staging area, with masks required. People who are not part of the same family unit will be socially distanced, including on the buses and eventually at shelters in inland Georgia counties.

“Prior to the COVID environment, we were able to maximize the space inside of a bus. Now that we’re in this environment, we have to make sure non-family units are socially distanced. So that does require more assets, this requires more people obviously, and also in the destination, it’s going to require more space at the destination.”

Jones says those partner agencies like GEMA and American Red Cross are ready to accommodate. WTOC also asked the CEMA Director if vaccination status will come into play when it comes to grouping evacuees together.

“Not from our perspective. From our perspective, our number one, primary focus is to get people out, regardless of vaccination status. Just because your vaccinated or unvaccinated, that doesn’t matter to us as far as getting you out from the threat of a hurricane.”

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