This Tuesday, December 1 is known as Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving back. Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: A day that encourages people to do good. Over the years it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, volunteer, and celebrate generosity. This year, you can join the movement by supporting Love City Strong, and our efforts to create a more prepared St. John. Click here to donate now. At LCS, our mission is to ensure that the community of St. John is able to respond, recover, and prepare for disasters. Our approach to disaster preparedness centers on three main initiatives: Community outreach and empowerment, stockpiling emergency supplies, and professional training for our team to make us more effective as first responders. To that end, we have already made a lot of progress over the last 3 years. We created 3 secure storage areas across the island that house a variety of response supplies including boxed water, MREs, solar lights, and first aid supplies. Our team calls or visits over 200 households with seniors both prior to and directly after any tropical weather event of any size; if the senior needs help putting up their shutters or securing their property, we head to their home and help. We have spent several years giving away File of Life and waterproof, flashing emergency lights to people all over the island, and offering to make free home address signs for seniors in an effort to ensure that emergency workers can get to them quicker and easier. With your help this Giving Tuesday, we can do even more to respond to disasters. While we often fundraise for specific projects (like the Resilient Housing Initiative), 2020 has taught us that it is important to have unrestricted funding available as well. Unrestricted donations are funds that can be spent on anything that we identify as a community need, rather than specific projects that we are already working on. This ensures that we can spring into action and address any crisis that may arise. With unrestricted donations, we were able to create and execute community programs in response to COVID-19 quickly and efficiently. This year, programs like our island-wide meal distribution program alongside World Central Kitchen and the purchase and distribution of thousands of reusable face masks across the island were funded by flexible, unrestricted donations. Unrestricted funding also allows us to employ St. John residents and hire St. John businesses to help us do the work. This Giving Tuesday, join the global movement for good by supporting our efforts through unrestricted funding. If you make your donation via our Global Giving Foundation page, they will distribute additional funds to all of the charities that Global Giving sponsors around the world this year, including LCS, as part of the #MoveAMillion campaign. No matter which causes you donate to or support this year, we encourage everyone to give a little back this Giving Tuesday. Nonprofits play a crucial role in their communities, and they rely on our love to keep them going. Celebrate their efforts through a donation this December 1.
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:
- What risk are you placing on others (particularly seniors or those who are immunocompromised) with the celebrations that you are planning?
- How can you modify your normal plans to allow for social distancing, or even to have events outdoors rather than indoors?
- 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?
- Do you have the resources and time to get tested and self-isolate before celebrating the holidays with people you do not live with?
- 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?
Healthcare professionals around the globe are gearing up to fight two deadly threats simultaneously: COVID-19 and the flu. Seasonal flu viruses are dynamic, and their health risks and severity vary year to year. However, the flu virus is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. With high risk populations already ravaged by COVID-19 this year, it is more important than ever that as many people get vaccinated for the flu as possible. Even for those who are young, healthy, and have no preexisting conditions, getting a flu vaccine is 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; the more people who vaccinate in a community, the more that a community is protected. While it is true that there is overlap between mitigation measures which help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and influenza (washing hands frequently, sanitizing surfaces, wearing a mask, and staying away from others if you feel sick), practicing these habits may not be enough to help healthcare providers combat two viruses simultaneously during the 2020/2021 flu season. Although last year’s final flu season numbers are not yet available, preliminary CDC data shows that between 39 and 56 million Americans contracted the flu last year, with over 400 thousand hospitalizations nation-wide. With COVID-19 pushing PPE supplies and hospital capacity to the breaking point, a serious flu season could cause local healthcare systems to utterly collapse. Limiting the burden on our healthcare systems and healthcare workers in any way that we can is critical. During this time of uncertainty, it is incumbent on each of us to do our part to protect our communities. Think of getting your flu shot not as a chore, but as an act of civic responsibility. Flu vaccinations are a simple action 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.
The Caribbean region is at risk to a variety of natural disasters, from hurricanes to tsunamis to severe droughts and heat waves. However, there is one natural disaster that is often overlooked in preparedness conversations, yet has the potential to be the most catastrophic. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are located at an active plate boundary between the North American plate and the northeast corner of the Caribbean plate. Plate movements have caused large magnitude earthquakes and devastating tsunamis over the years, and this has certainly been the case in 2020. Throughout January 2020, Puerto Rico was barraged by a swarm of quakes, 11 of which were a magnitude of 5 or greater. The resulting loss of life, devastation to infrastructure, and long term economic impacts cannot be overstated. As with any natural disaster, the work of community organizations to prepare and respond must also be augmented by citizen preparedness. After all, the more prepared that the average individual is, the more time that community organizations can spend helping those disaster survivors who need it the most. To that end, this year we encourage everyone to participate in the International Great Shake Out event (www.ShakeOut.org) this week on Thursday, October 15th! Participation in this event can be as involved as visiting their website, registering, and uploading a video of you and your loved ones performing an earthquake safety drill; or as simple as making the time to talk about earthquake preparedness with those in your household. The important thing is recognizing that earthquakes pose a serious threat, and incorporating preparedness for earthquakes into your regular readiness activities as a household or business. Even if you do not participate in the Great Shake Out itself, take the time to learn about earthquakes, consider what effects they may have on your surroundings, and make a plan to keep yourself safe both during and after a quake. As with any natural disaster, the only “right time” to prepare is as soon and as often as possible!