PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Pinellas County officials tell CW44 News at 10 they are now monitoring potential tropical cyclone #9 (Tropical Storm Isaias) and suspending Mahaffey Theater test site operations. They are also asking residents to turn their attention to preparedness plans.

“If you can open up your home to other people, safely, to come in and shelter with you, that’s an excellent idea,” said Cathie Perkins, Director, Pinellas County Emergency Management.

Covid-19 continues to impact every aspect of our lives and it will also change the way we prepare during hurricane season. Pinellas County officials say most of their preparedness plans will remain the same but there are some notable differences.

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“From a perspective of you at home, you need to be thinking about, what do you need to put in your hurricane kit,” said Perkins.

Among your kit with water, non-perishables, and flash lights, officials want you to add a few additional supplies this year.

“This year we’re going to ask people to put those sanitation wipes and hand wipes in your kit if you can get them. Masks if you’re going to be sheltering with family or friends. Some of those supplies might still be a little bit scarce on the shelves, so just take your time and as you find those items, put them in your kit,” said Perkins.

Due to the threat of the virus, officials say finding a host home with family or friends is a good idea. But if you plan on heading to a public shelter…

“What will be different is we’ll do a temperature screening when people come in. We’ll make sure that everybody has their mask,” said Perkins.

The County is making plans to assign people to different rooms to maintain distance.

“We’re working on making sure that we have enough space so we can help people social distance when they come in. We’re working on making sure that we have increased sanitation at all of those locations, and making sure that we have supplies there,” said Perkins.

And for anybody that may be COVID-19 positive when Pinellas County calls for an evacuation order: “We’ll be asking them, can you shelter or isolate safely in your home or another location? If not, then we’ll be looking at having some non-congregate sites so we can safely isolate them during the storm,” said Perkins

The Mahaffey Theater testing site will suspend operations Thursday at 7 p.m. and will not operate Friday or Saturday and is anticipated to resume next week. For more hurricane preparation tips, download the ReadyPinellas app or visit pinellascounty.org.

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