With the holiday season in full swing, people are gathering together again to reconnect with loved ones. However, data suggests another spike in cases of COVID-19 is likely. Extra precautions are still needed to slow the spread of the virus and its more contagious variants. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together some tips for a safer holiday season.  Incorporate as many layers of protection as possible at your holiday gatherings to keep all of your attendees safe. Consider the following options:
  • Keep things small, especially if you invite seniors or people who are immunocompromised. 
  • Celebrate outdoors, or socially distanced indoors, to lower the chance of transmission.
Family and friends are what make our holiday traditions special, so we must do everything we can to keep them safe. Click here for a list of the CDC’s other recommendations. The vaccine remains the most effective tool in the fight against COVID-19. For more information, visit the VI Department of Health’s resource page, the CDC’s Vaccine FAQ page, and the Johns Hopkins guide for fully vaccinated individuals. By following the advice of the experts, you and your family can have a safer holiday season!
Love City Strong Asset Manager Cutting Wood Shutters for Seniors
Devon Otto, the Love City Strong Asset Manager.
Our Operations Team plays a vital role in ensuring that we are prepared to respond to any kind of emergency that may arise. They are the backbone of our Disaster Preparedness programming. Alongside our Go Team, the Ops Team are the most visible members of our staff Who Are the Ops Team? The Operations Team (aka the Ops Team) consists of the Operations Manager and the Asset Manager.  These two hardworking individuals work in tandem to meet our supply and equipment needs, and have different assigned duties and responsibilities that keep all of our programs running smoothly from the back end. They are also critical in ensuring that we stand ready to support our community in a crisis. What Does the Ops Team Do? We definitely couldn’t do our jobs without the Asset Manager! At Love City Strong, we believe in striving to meet our clients where they are instead of asking them to come to our office. Our Go Team is constantly in the field visiting clients who are receiving program services and performing home visits for seniors. To make this possible, we are privileged to give our teams company vehicles to use during the workday. We put a lot of miles on these vehicles, and that means they often need a lot of maintenance. The Asset Manager keeps our vehicles clean and running, addressing any maintenance issues and conducting safety checks every month. This is critical to ensuring that we can keep providing personalized, curated experiences for our clients. The Operations Manager makes sure that we are receiving different first responder training every year. They research, coordinate, and provide the supplies for all of our staff training so that we are as prepared as possible to help others. Members of our team have received training in first aid, CPR, Emergency Medical Response (EMR), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Point of Distribution (POD), Chainsaw Sawyer, and more thanks to our Operations Manager’s hard work and dedication. To better serve our community when there is a crisis, Love City Strong has 3 storage spaces across the island that house a variety of supplies. First aid supplies, road clearing supplies, portable solar lights, MREs, and boxed water are just some of the many supplies that we have ready to go if a disaster strikes. The Ops Team keeps these spaces inventoried, clean, and accessible if we ever need them. They also meet regularly to research and assess other potential hazards to the community, and create plans to address those hazards through the ordering and stockpiling of supplies and equipment. Our Ops Team was critical in ensuring that we had PPE like masks, gloves, hospital gowns, and hand sanitizer in our possession before the first case of COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands was ever reported. The forward-thinking of our Ops Team allowed us to give these supplies to healthcare professionals, first responders, and frontline workers immediately to ensure there were no supply gaps in the early months of the pandemic.  Our storage spaces also house supplies to support projects led by our government partners in the areas of preparedness and readiness. When we were asked to help with mass-vaccination efforts on St. John, we were able to respond right away with tables, chairs, tents, PPE, office supplies, and hand sanitizer thanks to our Ops Team. Key to Our Success The Operations Team stays busy making sure that the Go Team, the seasonal Go Team, and our contractors have everything they need to be successful. They have a wealth of knowledge and skills, and are always thinking about what we can do to run our programs efficiently and fairly. Donate today to ensure that our Operations Team has everything they need to support us, so that we can continue to support St. John.
Earthquakes are occurring more frequently across the globe. Unlike many weather-related disasters, earthquakes often come without warning. Therefore it is crucial for households, businesses, and communities to be aware of the dangers that earthquakes pose and to get prepared. Stay prepared for earthquakes by participating in the International Great Shake Out event (www.ShakeOut.org) on Thursday, October 21! To participate in the Great Shake Out, visit their website, register, and upload a video of you and your loved ones performing an earthquake safety drill on October 21. Check out our brand new Earthquake Safety Guide for more information. Print our guide out and place it on your refrigerator, or wherever you keep emergency information in your home. You can find this and other preparedness tip sheets, links, and videos on our What To Know page! We encourage everyone to take the time to learn about earthquakes, consider what effects they may have on your community, and make a plan to keep yourself safe both during and after a quake. As with any disaster, the only “right time” to prepare is now!
September is National Hurricane Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.” Every week in September, we will be sharing information demonstrating how individual and household preparedness can make a difference in your community. This week’s topic is: Low Cost, No Cost Preparedness. Disaster preparedness can feel like a massive burden. By taking the time to prepare all-year round rather than right before a disaster strikes or during the time of year when disasters regularly occur in your community (such as hurricane or wildfire season), you can lessen the impact on your time and your wallet. Beginning in January, do one or two preparedness activities every month. Make a list of everything that your household needs to do, and stick to a regular schedule. This will help make preparedness a regular part of your household’s routine, and alleviate the anxiety and stress surrounding preparedness right before an event. It also allows you to budget preparedness ahead of time. There are numerous actions you can take year-round to prepare that are low or no cost. These include:
  • Set aside at least $10 a week in cash, and put it into an envelope in your emergency kit.
  • Purchase one or two items per month to complete your emergency kit.
  • Make physical or digital copies of your important documents (such as IDs, birth certificates, health records, insurance records, home ownership records, etc.).
  • Make a list of items on porches or outside of your home that need to be brought inside or secured before a disaster, and create a step by step plan to address them.
  • Keep your gutters regularly cleaned and secured.
  • Trim branches and clean up garbage around your property to prevent it from becoming projectiles in a wind-based disaster (such as a hurricane or tropical storm).
  • Contact churches or nonprofits in your area, and ask what preparedness resources they provide both before and after a disaster so that you know where you can go for services.
Talk to your neighbors and loved ones, and share your annual low cost or no cost preparedness plans. If you are part of a faith-based or community organization, get everyone in your group on the same preparedness calendar so that more people are prepared around you. Don’t wait—Start preparing today! For more information, visit www.ready.gov. For up to date, reliable forecasts, visit the National Hurricane Center website. For Virgin Islands specific alerts, watches, and warnings, visit VITEMA’s website, or sign up for AlertVI.
As the first month of hurricane season ends, we find ourselves watching an increasingly active Atlantic. Tropical Storm Danny made landfall yesterday in South Carolina as the fourth named storm of the year. Presently, Invests 95L and 97L are approaching the Caribbean with the potential for development. For the sixth year in a row, experts have forecasted an “above average” hurricane season, but as we well know, all it takes is one storm to change everything for your community. Preparedness, on an individual and community level, is critical to managing the immediate impact of a disaster on your life. Furthermore, a higher level of preparedness can help you, your family, and your community navigate your recovery from a disaster impact more smoothly. Making a plan, gathering important documents, and explicitly sharing your plan will help in the short term.  These steps will also, notably, help in the long term. Community itself is also essential to preparedness. In other words, strong relationships with your neighbors, church, and local businesses make you more resilient. Now is the time to check in with your neighbors and find out what they may need. Identify members of your congregation who may need extra support in times of crisis. Include your employer or employees in your emergency planning process. Communities with strong ties fare better in the wake of disasters. The Atlantic hurricane season is already quite active, and will only continue to heat up between now and October. Consequently, it is important to undertake preparedness efforts as soon as possible. Make sure you identify any unmet needs or gaps in your plans, and take the necessary actions. For up to date, reliable forecasts, visit the National Hurricane Center website. For VI specific alerts, watches, and warnings, visit VITEMA’s website, or sign up for AlertVI.
Disaster preparedness is at the very core of Love City Strong’s mission. Importantly, each May we highlight Hurricane Preparedness Week – this year, from May 9th through 15th. The week serves as a perfect time to assess your personal hurricane risk and preparedness. Predictions indicate an above average activity level this season but clearly, it only takes one storm to change your community.  Before hurricane season begins on June 1st, you should begin doing the following things:
  1. Determine your risk
  2. Develop your sheltering or evacuation plan.
  3. Assemble disaster supplies, or “Build A Kit” as Ready.gov says!
  4. Get an insurance check up
  5. Strengthen your home
  6. Help your neighbors
  7. Complete a written plan
If you’re a resident of a community at high risk for hurricanes, like the USVI, then you likely already have some or all of these components in place. Nevertheless, it is important to review your preparedness plans each year. Furthermore, once you’ve updated them, make sure your family and friends are aware of your plans.  Make sure to check in with your local emergency management agency (for the USVI that’s VITEMA) to learn about any changes to sheltering, evacuations, or other things that could impact your plan. You can also inquire about Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. CERT is available nationwide, and can help you to better support your community in the event of a disaster. Here in the Territory, VITEMA hosts these trainings regularly on St Croix, St Thomas, and St John. If you are interested in volunteering, you can check in with your local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), to learn about which local and national organizations might have volunteer opportunities in your area.  Starting Sunday, we will be focusing on a different area of preparedness each day. Tune in to our social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to learn more! Additionally, you can visit our “What to Know” page here on the website for downloadable resources. 
The LCS Team and St. John Fire Chief Clarence Stephenson
This week, our team partnered with the Virgin Islands Fire Department and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church to help distribute boxes of food to St. John residents as part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families program. While this is the fourth time that boxes of food have been given out on St. John, the current distribution model relies on those in need going to distribution sites.  Our team’s inclusion in this round of distribution ensured that a crucial group of individuals was able to receive this program’s benefits: Seniors and people with a disability or chronic health condition that renders them homebound. We delivered boxes of food directly to 80 homes across the island in a single day. Our longstanding model of going directly to those we serve for all of our programs, rather than making them come to us, means that we are uniquely able to navigate St. John quickly and efficiently. This allows us to provide people with goods and services from other organizations who might otherwise not be able to access them. Thanks to the support of our Board and donors, we are able to provide vehicles for our employees to participate in programs like this. Providing our team with vehicles, PPE, and the tools that they need to do their jobs ensures that they do not have to use their personal property for work purposes. This lends itself to our belief in a strong work-life balance, and strengthens our impact. Your donations ensure that we can continue to support other organizations’ efforts when we are not working on our own programs. Click here to read more about what we do, and please consider a donation today. With your help, we can keep supporting our community whenever we are able.
National Influenza Vaccination Week 2020 is December 7 through December 13
December 7th is the start of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). NIVW is an annual observance reminding everyone age 6 months and older that there’s still time to get vaccinated and #FightFlu in your community.   Flu vaccinations are more critical than ever this year as COVID-19 continues to spread at alarming rates. Combating both viruses has already placed a tremendous burden on healthcare systems around the globe. This may result in many more illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths than during a typical flu season.  Even for those who are young, healthy, and have no preexisting conditions, getting a flu vaccine is still important. By getting vaccinated we prevent ourselves from becoming vectors of disease and causing undue harm to others.  The CDC estimates that flu vaccinations in the U.S. reduce the risk of illness for 40-60% of the overall population. In other words, the more people who vaccinate in a community, the more that their community is protected. Do your part to protect your community by getting your annual flu vaccination. Flu vaccinations are a simple act that has the potential to save lives, support our healthcare workers, and make a real difference. Visit www.GetMyFluShot.org to learn more. For a partial list of vaccination providers in your area, click here. To learn more about the similarities and differences between the influenza virus and COVID-19, check out this video from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The Territory entered the 2020 hurricane season on high alert, facing the forecast of an active season paired with the COVID-19 pandemic. At Love City Strong, we began modifying and updating our preparedness and response plans early on, reaching out to our partners at Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), the Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH), the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for guidance and best practices for responding to a disaster during a global health crisis.  Thanks to our work responding to the pandemic on St. John, our team was already used to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and adhering to social distancing protocols. We modified our annual community outreach programs, becoming less reliant on public events and leveraging public and private partnerships in order to successfully respond to two significant weather events while keeping residents informed.  Tropical Storm Isaias impacted the Territory on July 29th, and our response lasted from July 25th through July 30th. This large system moved quickly, but did not turn into a tropical storm until it passed just south of St Croix. Our team remained on alert and executed pre- and post-storm wellness checks in the community, shifting from at-home visits to conducting them entirely over the phone. We assisted residents with downed trees and minor storm debris on their property, and brought resources like solar powered lights to those experiencing power loss. A wave of severe weather associated with Tropical Storm Laura impacted the Territory in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 21st. Once again, what was expected to be a significant rain event stayed to our south, resulting in a limited impact. Within 24 hours of the forecast impact, we knew that the path would keep Laura from being much of a threat to the USVI, but our team continued to execute pre- storm wellness checks, and helped several residents with boarding up and clearing their property. This hurricane season saw us working closely with VITEMA and our other government partners, as well as our sister nonprofits affiliated with Virgin Islands Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VI VOAD), to keep St. John prepared. Between storms this year, we delivered sandbags to over 100 households, and handed out blue roofing via a drive-through system alongside our partners. Both of these events would normally be done in the form of large public gatherings, but we were able to execute them successfully while still observing social distancing and PPE use. The 2020 hurricane season taught us much about the unpredictable nature of disaster preparedness, and emphasized the complex relationship between multiple disasters that share the same impact window. I am proud of the work our team has done this year, in the face of so many challenges. As the season comes to a close, we look forward to further refining our deployment plans, expanding our preparedness and resilience programming, and serving the community in the years to come.
Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that many are starting to develop a sense of emotional burnout that some are calling “covid fatigue.”  The sense of a never ending struggle against an invisible threat may cause people to let their guard down. After all, it can feel wrong to continue to rearrange your life and practice all of these new habits if your risk seems nonexistent. However, this behavior is precisely what leads to surges in COVID-19 cases.  As cases begin to increase globally, particularly in the United States, anecdotal evidence suggests that “covid fatigue” is playing a major part. People are tired of not seeing their loved ones, and staying socially distant, and making dramatic shifts in how they interact with the world. What’s troubling is that this societal shift is about to converge with the holiday season; a time when people around the world come together with loved ones and celebrate long standing traditions with their communities. These celebrations usually occur indoors, in large groups, and almost always involve older members of one’s extended family or community.  Given that most of us have not seen our loved ones this year due to the pandemic, it can be tempting to completely relax our habits for the holidays and to act as though we live in a world free of risk. The sense of comfort and nostalgia that the holidays give us seem like the perfect solution to our pandemic woes. Unfortunately, the traditions that many of us crave are exactly the kinds of scenarios that put us and others at risk. It is more important than ever that we begin to workshop creative solutions and start new traditions in order to celebrate the holidays during the pandemic. Whether gathering in smaller groups with immediate members of your household only, taking more time off of work or school to allow for adequate quarantine on either side of holiday travel, or making celebrations entirely virtual, any amount of mitigation will be better than none.  Here are a few key questions to consider when making holiday plans this year:
  1. What risk are you placing on others (particularly seniors or those who are immunocompromised) with the celebrations that you are planning? 
  1. How can you modify your normal plans to allow for social distancing, or even to have events outdoors rather than indoors?
  1. For those traveling, what is the status of the virus in your community, and the community that you’re traveling to? Is it fair to put a strain on another community’s healthcare system, or put loved ones in another community at risk, for the sake of not celebrating the holidays in your own community?
  1. Do you have the resources and time to get tested and self-isolate before celebrating the holidays with people you do not live with?
  1. Should you set boundaries and expectations with others (and avoid those awkward conversations about why you won’t be hugging anyone this year) ahead of time? 
Making changes to behaviors and traditions that we have all come to depend on can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but managing our expectations and those of our loved ones can be extremely helpful as we create new ways to connect with family during the holiday season.  Family and friends are the core of what makes these traditions so special, and ultimately our primary concern must be safeguarding the health and safety of the people we love.