COVID-19 complicates hurricane recovery efforts for Miami Valley volunteers, first responders

Local News

MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – Ohio Task Force 1 landed in Shreveport, Louisiana just after noon on Thursday, prepared for many challenges including a quick turn-around time for their preparation.

“We got a late notice on this because of the rapid growth of the storm. So it put us behind the eight ball in terms of response,” explained Jack Reall, the task force leader.

Reall said although the drive was very tiring, the team of about 85 people was in good spirits. In addition to the challenges of a storm with historic-level winds and flooding, is the challenge of remaining healthy during a pandemic.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Reall. “We’ve got a lot of experience right now with the COVID environment, that’s the good thing…But we’re still kind of unsure how it’s going to work when we get into operations and things like that.”

Reall says the team was tested for the coronavirus before leaving Dayton and are waiting to receive their test results now.

Also facing challenges of health and safety during recovery is the Red Cross. About 20 volunteers from the American Red Cross Central and Southeast Ohio Region are adapting their rescue efforts to fit CDC guidelines. This includes offering case work and other assistance virtually, constant health screenings and mandating face masks. Another change is with shelter.

“[The pandemic] made our sheltering situations a little bit more challenging,” said Marita Salkowski, communications and marketing manager with the Red Cross. “We have more shelters than normal because of the social distancing requirements….We have every precaution possible to keep everybody safe from not only COVID-19 but also the devastation of the storm.”

DP&L officials also shared that there are 36 DP&L contractor linemen who have been deployed to help restore power and 36 vegetation contractors have been deployed to help clear debris.

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