Sept 1, 2021
TO THE EDITOR:
With hurricane season gearing up and Covid still very much an issue many county staff members worry about what shelter duty will look like. For those who don't know our local hurricane shelters are staffed by many county employees from social services and the health department etc.
These employees are required to serve shelter duty-meaning some will have to stay in the shelter themselves. This could mean hours or even days away from their families, children, homes and pets during a natural disaster.
Now with Covid there is an added layer of stress and fear for these employees. Trying to mandate masks and social distancing is going to be difficult in a shelter setting especially when stress and fear is already a factor due to an impending natural disaster.
These employees have worked non-stop during the entire pandemic and have dealt with countless changes in protocol and expectations with very little appreciation. Some employees have elderly family members, children who aren't old enough to be vaccinated, some are compromised themselves etc. and yet they are expected to put themselves at risk and potentially put their families at risk.
Being in close quarters with so many people, some who may or may not be vaccinated, some who may refuse to mask up, some who may lack proper hygiene, and being exposed and then potentially exposing their loved ones upon returning home.
Shelter duty should be on a voluntary basis first, at least while a serious pandemic is still putting people at risk. Allow volunteers to sign up and see if there is enough interest. The extra pay might be enough for some employees to volunteer or maybe there are some who truly enjoy shelter duty. If enough people don't sign up on a volunteer basis then you can start filling the spots with the non-volunteers.
To expect these employees to be separated from their families and belongings during a hurricane and run a shelter in the middle of a pandemic after they give so much of themselves to the public on a daily basis shows how little they are valued.