An Eye on COVID: Hurricane Preparedness at a COVID-19 Alternative Care Site

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Disaster medicine and public health preparedness


Background: In March 2020, the Louisiana Department of Health activated the Medical Monitoring Station (MMS) in downtown New Orleans. This alternative care site is designed to decompress hospitals and nursing homes overwhelmed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the city's historic vulnerability to hurricanes, planning for possible tropical weather events has been a priority for MMS leadership. Methods: The planning process incorporated input from all sectors/agencies working at the facility, to ensure consistency and cohesion. The MMS Shelter-in-Place Plan (MSIPP) was created, and a comprehensive tabletop exercise was conducted. Results: Six planning topics emerged as a result of the planning process and were used to create a comprehensive plan for sheltering-in-place. These topics address hurricane preparedness for patient care, interfacility coordination, wrap-around services, medical logistics, essential staffing, and incident command during a shelter-in-place scenario. Conclusions: The MSIPP created by the MMS helped to maximize patient safety and continuity of operations during a real-world event. Select pieces of the plan were activated to meet the needs and threat level of Tropical Storm Cristobal. This experience reinforced the need for originality, scalability, and flexibility in building emergency operations plans in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.

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