TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Erin Annis of South Tampa would probably use a hurricane shelter as a last resort.
“I think we’ve got other options with family that I’d look into before going to a shelter, just because I got three young kids and I’d feel safer in a more private place,” she said.
Her friend, Lauren Green, agreed.
“I’d go to family that lives closer, maybe a little more inland, take my chances elsewhere,” Green told 8 On Your Side.
Annis and Green are like a lot of Floridians.
A recent survey conducted by the University of South Florida found that 71% would be less likely to go to a hurricane shelter because of COVID-19 concerns. Five-percent said they would be more likely and 24% reported that their decision would not be affected by the virus.
USF surveyed 600 Florida residents from July 30 to Aug. 10 with a margin of error of +/- 4%, the university said in an email.
On Thursday afternoon, Hillsborough County leaders discussed the potential of a tropical depression that could form into a more powerful storm and possibly head toward Tampa early next week. With it comes the balancing act of keeping people safe and dealing with coronavirus.
County leaders plan to open at least 56 shelters, if needed, they announced.
Shelter workers would screen everyone who entered, require masks, and encourage hand washing. Those who present with COVID-19 symptoms would be put in a special area.
“At the end of the day, the basic message is that we still need to run from the water, we need to hide from the wind, but we’re gonna mitigate the virus and that’s the new component that we’re gonna be incorporating,” said Inaki Rezola, a Hillsborough County official.
The USF survey also found that half of Floridians (50%) have an emergency evacuation plan in place that they would put to use during a hurricane or natural disaster. Forty-four percent of respondents reported not having a plan and 6% were unsure, the university reported. Only 41% have a stocked emergency kit, also referred to as a go-bag, in case they are forced to evacuate quickly. Fifty-nine percent do not or are simply not sure.
Meantime, the university wrote: “A majority of Floridians (87%) mentioned that a category 3 or higher hurricane would severely or somewhat affect their household. Only 11% believe that their household would not be very affected and only 2% mentioned it would not affect it.”