COVID-19 is changing emergency evacuation operations amid the wildfires

COVID-19 is changing emergency evacuation operations amid the wildfires
Posted at 9:23 AM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 12:23:44-04

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. -- With wildfires burning across the West Coast and coronavirus concerns impacting communities, emergency evacuation shelters in California are facing crisis and chaos.

In Santa Cruz County, leaders say local fires have displaced about one in every five residents.

That includes Anthony Koppe, who lost his house in Boulder Creek during the CZU fire.

“I don’t want to dwell on it too much. you know,” he said. “It’s happened and we got to move on.”

Koppe and many others from California’s Central Coast are now seeking help at a local recovery resource center where new safety measures have been added to combat COVID-19.

“If somebody has something, instead of passing it on, you can catch it at the door,” he said.

Just to get in those doors, people have to pass a pretty strict health screening, like filling out an extensive questionnaire and getting your temperature taken with a new touchless thermometer.

“It’s impacted everything,” Rosemary Anderson, emergency services manager for the County of Santa Cruz, said about how COVID-19 has changed how emergency evacuations shelters are operating.

Gone are the days of hundreds of cots stuffed in an auditorium. Now, places like Kaiser Permanente Arena, which normally holds 25,000 people, has a maximum capacity of 68.

“Everything was measured out so each of the tables and the resources are all 6 feet apart and people can interact from a distance where its COVID safe,” Anderson said.

COVID-19 concerns have also impacted other disaster relief organizations.

“Where we’d normally have 500 people in a gym, now we’re only doing about 50,” said Tony Briggs of the American Red Cross.

Briggs says the coronavirus has forced his teams to change how they help people cope with disaster during this pandemic.

“Now, with COVID, we can do all the listening, but you can’t do the contact,” he said. “And for some people, that hug is a really, really big deal.”

Even with the added attention to detail, leaders in Santa Cruz are expecting coronavirus transmission rates to increase because more people are coming in contact at these resource centers.

“If something is wrong with somebody, I definitely don’t want to catch it or my lady or my son,” Koppe said.

While people like Koppe may have lost their homes, these new safety measures haven’t let them lose hope

“It definitely gives me peace of mind,” he said.

Coronavirus Testing Sites - Kern County

View Testing Locations Map

State-Provided Sites
  • Must have an appointment
  • Free, but if have insurance they will bill
  • No screening criteria

Kern County Fairgrounds
1142 South P Street, Building 4, Access Gate 27

Rosamond Library
3611 Rosamond Blvd, Rosamond CA 93560

Arvin Public Health
204 S Hill Street, Arvin

Wasco Library
1102 7th Street

County-Provided Sites
  • Must have an appointment
  • Free
  • No screening criteria
  • Operating with existing provider

Oildale - Good Samaritan Hospital
901 Olive Drive, Bakersfield
  • For Registration call (661) 215-7725
  • Drive-Thru Only
  • Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am - 8 pm, Saturday 8 am - 12 pm

Ridgecrest - Ridgecrest Regional Hospital
1081 N. China Lake Blvd, Ridgecrest
  • For Registration: Text the word "testing" to 833-774-4968 Or Call 866-774-9984
  • Drive-Thru Only
  • Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 10:30 am

Delano - Delano Regional Medical Center
1401 Garces Hwy, Delano
  • No Drive-Thru option
  • Hours: Monday – Friday 9 am – 5 pm

Kern River Valley - Kern Valley Hospital
6412 Laurel Ave, Mt Mesa Wheelchair Logo
  • For Registration call (760) 379-2681 ext 267
  • Drive-Thru Only
  • Hours: Wednesday - Thursday from 7 am - 2 pm.
Tehachapi - Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley
1100 Magellan Dr 93561

Lamont - Kern County Library
8304 Segrue Road, Lamont, CA 93241
  • For registration call 661-869-6018
  • Drive-Thru and Walk-Up<
  • Testing available for ages 5+ only; parents must be present and give consent for children
  • Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 9 am - 2 pm; Tuesday, Thursday 2 pm - 7 pm

Taft - West Side Health Care District
  • For Registration call (661) 765-1935
  • Drive-Thru<
  • TTesting available for all ages; parents must be present and give consent for children
  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9 am – 1 pm & 3 pm – 7 pm; Saturday 11 am – 3 pm