Relief groups turn to hotels to shelter West Coast fire evacuees amid coronavirus pandemic

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Fearing one disaster will feed another, relief groups are putting some people who fled their homes during West Coast wildfires into hotels to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, stringing up shower curtains to separate people in group shelters and delivering box lunches instead of setting up buffets.

Large disaster response organizations like the American Red Cross are still operating some traditional shelters in gyms and churches, where they require masks, clean and disinfect often and try to keep evacuees at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. The groups say they can reduce the risk of COVID-19 in a shelter but can’t keep people safe if they don’t evacuate from the flames.

“The last thing we want to have happen is people to remain in the path of a wildfire or hurricane because they think it’s safer to do that than risk a shelter,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president of disaster operations and logistics for the American Red Cross.

‘I could never have envisioned this’: At least 35 dead as nearly 100 wildfires continue to rage across 12 Western states

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