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May 19, 2020

Hurricane Season Amid COVID-19

As if hurricanes and pandemics weren’t already threatening enough on their own, 2020 brings the season where we will get deal with both at the same time. South Carolina’s hospitals and health systems continue to respond to the daily challenges presented by COVID-19, but they are also turning their attention to the coast with the start of hurricane season on June 1. Just this week we saw the first named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season off Florida’s Atlantic coast with Arthur.

If the last several years are any indication, it seems likely that hospitals can expect a major weather event that may make them consider whether to transfer patients with COVID-19. Few can forget the “1000-year flood” that enveloped much of South Carolina and devastated parts of Columbia in 2015. We saw Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017, which both caused major flooding and damage. And in some cases, those storms caused hospitals to transfer patients between facilities to comply with mandatory orders from the state.

Although hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, SCHA is always working with DHEC and other state and local partners to improve our response efforts. Our long-held position has been that South Carolina’s hospitals and health systems have the operational and clinical expertise to make the right decision on when it is in the best interest of the patient to be transferred. And we have been working with state officials to make sure they know that sheltering-in-place is the preferred strategy for facilities this hurricane season, particularly as we face COVID-19.

SCHA is not only the organization preparing for hurricane season amid the pandemic—FEMA and the CDC each released updated guidance in May. One critical thing hospitals can do to prepare for this unique hurricane season is to review, sign, and return the SCHA Mutual Aid Agreement and Appendix A to by the end of the month. The Mutual Aid Agreement (MAA) is an important tool to make sure we don’t get disconnected from our most important resource in a time of emergency – each other. If you have any questions about the 2020 – 2021 MAA, please contact John Williams.