Cities following guidance, implementing measures for cooling centers during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:49 PM, Jun 10, 2020

NORFOLK, Va. - Summertime typically means sunshine and warm temperatures.

According to Hampton officials, the city has traditionally sent people to libraries and community centers when the National Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Warning. Officials told News 3 those aren’t open currently, but the city can open some as needed for emergency cooling centers.

“We have to make sure they're cool,” City of Hampton Communications Coordinator Fred Gaskins said. “They can get water, they can get cool off and they can get some respite from the heat.”

Help Inc., a local non-profit, provides shelter for those trying to beat the heat.

“When it's hot outside, we're open five days a week to make sure people have a place to come and stay,” Help Inc. Executive Director Matthew Stearn said.

This year is different due to COVID-19, with officials putting in new measures and following guidance.

“We're going to follow all of the recommendations from the Governor's Office, from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] when it comes to safety. Whether that's making sure people are six feet apart, making sure that they wear masks, and other safety procedures,” Gaskins said.

The CDC has released guidance for COVID-19 and cooling centers.

Some of the guidance includes, if available, considering implementing verbal screening or temperature checks before letting visitors into cooling centers, and if possible, providing alternative cooling sites for anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Stearn said Help Inc.’s shelter has measures, including symptom and temperature checks and mask requirements.

“We want to make sure that we can slow the spread and make sure that our facilities and the services we're trying to provide aren't hindering people's ability just to stay well," he said.

In Norfolk, libraries have also been used for cooling centers.

“We would be using or distributing masks, and incorporating social distancing,” Norfolk Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response Jim Redick said.

Redick told News 3 city officials are looking for the best strategy for each facility while following guidance.

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“Some of those facilities of which we rely may not be open,” Redick said. “Maybe we do a partial opening, where the outer perimeter of the interior of the building that has restrooms and water fountains and alike may be open, but the rest of the facility may not.”

Hampton Roads officials say the pandemic won't stop them from helping you stay cool this summer.

“I'd like to think that our posture is a very resilient one, and we'll get through together whatever comes our way,” Redick said.

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