Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Closures Abound as Coronavirus Spreads
EDM Friday Briefing: Closures Abound as Coronavirus Spreads

EDM Friday Briefing: Closures Abound as Coronavirus Spreads

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 13, 2020: All Ohio schools will be closed for three weeks due to the coronavirus; the WHO has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic; healthcare facility operational preparedness requires redundancy for PSPS; Disney officials announce closure of resorts in California, Florida, and France amid ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus; torrential rainfalls prompted flash flooding closed roads in the Coachella Valley; the U.S. State Department and the CDC issued new travel alert levels as coronavirus spreads across Europe; another person has died from injuries sustained in the deadly tornadoes in middle Tennessee last Tuesday; and barge traffic on inland waterways faces navigation challenges with flooding and planned essential maintenance this spring and summer.

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1) Beginning after school Monday, all public, private, and charter K-12 schools in Ohio will be closed for three weeks as part of an extended spring break to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. The move to close schools across the state until April 3, comes amid five confirmed cases of the coronavirus that were reported in Northeast Ohio counties: three in Cuyahoga, one in Trumbull, and one in Stark County. The governor left decisions up to each district as to whether they conduct classes online, or just have an extended break, and it is unknown if the closure will result in an extension of the school year.

2) On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the rapidly spreading COVID-19 a global pandemic. As of Thursday, 127 countries had reported cases of the coronavirus, while the total number of global cases so far has exceeded 134,745. As the virus quickly spreads, countries are declaring emergencies, closing schools and businesses, and urging residents to avoid sick individuals. In the United States, multiple states, along with large school districts, have announced school closures for anywhere from two weeks up to one month, with some K-12 and higher-learning institutions moving to online instruction.

3) As the threat of wildfires continues, Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) now need to be addressed as planned disasters due to the impact they have on public health and safety. A PSPS cuts power to locations at-risk for wildfires, and the absence of electrical power becomes a life threat, especially for long-term care facilities and hospitals, along with other agencies and healthcare facilities. The key to ensuring the safety of residents and patients is to create redundancy, including back-up power supplies, and ensuring that operational plans--such as for evacuations--are in place, along with mutual aid agreements to help ensure safety and redundancy.

4) Amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, Disney announced the closure of its resorts in California, Florida, and Paris, France, along with its Disney Cruise Line cruises, through the end of March. The closure of the resort parks will begin at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, and will include Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park in California, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and Disneyland Paris Resort. All new departures on the Disney Cruise Line will be suspended beginning on March 14. Universal Studios announced it would also close its theme parks in California and Florida temporarily amid the ongoing outbreak of the new coronavirus.

5) Afternoon rains soaked the Coachella Valley in California on Thursday, prompting flash flood warnings and road closures. Hardest hit areas for road closures due to flooding included Palm Springs, East Valley, La Quinta, and Cathedral, where officials urged residents not to drive through floodwaters. By the afternoon, rainfall amounts were from one inch to nearly two inches in some locations, with significant delays on area freeways and highways due to rising floodwaters.

6) The U.S. State Department has issued a Global Level 3 Health Advisory, cautioning Americans to reconsider travel abroad due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. The State Department cautions that with the ongoing outbreak, even countries not currently restricting travel or enforcing quarantines, could impose restrictions without warning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its highest level warning--a Level 3--advising Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to Europe amid the spreading virus.

7) The deadly tornadoes that struck middle Tennessee on March 3rd--and caused widespread damage--have claimed another life. A man in Putnam County, where an EF-4 tornado touched down, died Thursday of injuries he sustained during the tornado. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), a severe storm cell spawned about 10 tornadoes that caused a total of 25 deaths, injured dozens, and left at least a 60 mile trail of destruction across Nashville and Putnam County.

8) Flooding will again be likely along inland waterways this year, creating issues for the movement of barges. The Army Corp of Engineers also has planned essential maintenance on the navigable link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River in six areas, disrupting barge operations for 120 days beginning July 1. The maintenance is necessary, and should occur after the flooding threat, but extends the likely disruption of navigation through inland waterways--part of critical infrastructure that is essential for the movement of grains and other consumables.

https://twitter.com/WUSTL_EPS/status/1237041065145905152

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.