COVID-19's impact on Red Cross during natural disasters

AccuWeather's Bernie Rayno talks with Greta Gustafson of the Red Cross about how the Red Cross is dealing with coronavirus during disaster relief.

Video Transcript

BERNIE RAYNO: Today marks one year since the pandemic was declared. You don't need me to tell you about the tragic hardships faced by tens of millions of people around the globe in the wake of COVID-19. The American Red Cross is there for us throughout every type of disaster, and the virus is no different. But the organization can't function without your help.

We're joined this morning via Skype by Greta Gustafson, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. And good morning, Miss Greta. We're going to get right to the questions here. Now, how has COVID-19 impacted the way people deal with disasters?

GRETA GUSTAFSON: You're right, it's been one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. And we are seeing the impact for families everywhere. And it's really impacting the way that they are also able to prepare for disasters. Being able to have that emergency kit on hand--

BERNIE RAYNO: Yeah.

GRETA GUSTAFSON: --and prepare in advance isn't something that is quite as easy when you're experiencing financial hardships. So we're seeing the resiliency of people go down, but that is exactly why the Red Cross is here and able to step in to provide that food, that shelter, and that support following a disaster that is more important now during COVID-19 than ever, particularly as we saw an incredibly busy disaster season last year with back-to-back hurricanes and intense wildfires as well.

BERNIE RAYNO: And Greta, how does the pandemic impact the work of the Red Cross doing disasters?

GRETA GUSTAFSON: COVID-19 doesn't change our mission. As soon as our teams heard about the pandemic spreading, they were making moves to make sure that we had plans in place to be able to continue to support people before, during, and after disasters. We put enhanced protocols in place to make sure that any shelters that we needed to open were safe for both our workers and the people we serve. And this included having people wear masks, spacing out the cots to follow social distancing guidelines, and making sure that we were cleaning those shelters in an enhanced way too. And we also prioritized putting people in hotel rooms, as well, so that they were able to really follow that social distancing guidelines that way as well.

BERNIE RAYNO: And Greta, COVID-19 impacted so many communities, but one that we don't think of often are the military veterans and families. How has the Red Cross supported this community?

GRETA GUSTAFSON: During the pandemic, 10,000 US veterans have lost their lives. And military members and their families are facing unique difficulties as well, such as extended deployment, increased isolation, military spouse job loss. And so the Red Cross has been able to step up and provide online courses in communities that help these groups deal with stress, as well as our Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, which is an online community targeted towards the caregivers of injured veterans, has actually doubled in size during the pandemic, which really shows that these communities are looking for that sense of connection and that ability to get away from isolation and feel like they have that support network. So that has been really important during the pandemic as well.

BERNIE RAYNO: And quickly, Greta, how can people help?

GRETA GUSTAFSON: Right now March is Red Cross month, so we are taking the time to honor our current volunteers and encouraging new ones to join us. You can join by visiting RedCross.org/volunteer. And then we also have Red Cross Giving Day coming up on March 24, where we encourage people to make a financial donation to support our disaster relief work. And you can do that by visiting RedCross.org/givingday.

BERNIE RAYNO: All right, Greta Gustafson, spokesperson for the American Red Cross, thank you so much.