Preparing for a hurricane

Attention AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana members:

  • Riding out hurricane season looks a little different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
  • For the latest updates on the weather in your community, look to your local news as well as the National Weather Service. The Department of Health and AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana will also share the latest on its social media channels (@LaDeptHealth @AmeriHealthLA on Twitter and Facebook). 
  • We encourage residents with questions about the storm, sheltering or medical needs to call 211.
  • These providers have advised us of office closures due to severe weather.

General Guidance

  • Avoid flood waters, both driving and walking through them, especially on highways and roads.
  • Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Be sure to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

  • Wear a mask.
  • Stay six feet apart from others.
  • Minimize how many trips you make and how many family members join you.
  • Wash or disinfect your hands when you return home.
  • Check on neighbors, but consider calling them instead of visiting in person. If you do visit in person, wear a mask and stay six feet apart.
  • Community-based testing for COVID-19 is on hold for the rest of the week. We will keep you updated. We want you to be able to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible if you are symptomatic or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. 

Prepare for power outages

  • When the power is out, throw away any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If your life depends on the refrigerated drugs, use them only until a new supply is available. Replace all refrigerated drugs as soon as possible.
  • Residents should assume that any downed utility line is energized. Stay away, and keep children and pets away, from downed lines. Call the electric company to report them. Learn more on how to protect yourself from electrical hazards after a disaster.
  • Extreme heat can be especially dangerous for those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, mental illness, poor blood circulation, and obesity. Check on friends and loved ones, and follow these tips on how to prevent heat-related illness after a power outage.
  • Here are three ways to prepare your health for a possible power outage:
    • Fully charge your mobile and medical devices and backup power sources.
    • Make an emergency power plan.
    • Test your carbon monoxide detectors.
  • We know many of you may be dusting off your generators for the first time all year. Please remember:
    • Portable generators should never be used indoors. This includes in a garage, carport, basement, crawl space, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even those with ventilation.
    • Gas-powered generators produce an exhaust of carbon monoxide (CO) which is odorless and colorless. CO inhalation can rapidly lead to full incapacitation or death. Opening windows or doors or using fans will not prevent the buildup of CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air IMMEDIATELY. Be sure to place the generator away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.
    • Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rain or wet conditions. Protect the generator from moisture by operating it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as a tarp held up on poles.

Staying with friends or family

  • If you plan to stay with others, talk to them in advance about how you can all best protect yourselves from COVID-19.
  • Consider if either of your households has someone who is at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults or people of any age who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or chronic kidney disease.
  • Follow everyday preventive actions, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Consider taking extra precautions for people living in close quarters.
    • If your household includes one or more vulnerable people then all members of the household should behave as if they themselves are at higher risk.
    • Limit errands. Choose one or two family members who are not at a higher risk to run the essential errands.
    • Vulnerable members should avoid caring for children and those who are sick.
    • Separate a household member who is sick.
  • Know what to do if someone in your family or in the household you are staying with becomes sick with COVID-19. Create a sick room or at least keep distance where possible between the sick person and others.

Louisiana Department of Health and Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs' cancer care and treatment hotline

Patients with cancer who evacuated their homes because of Hurricane Laura can call a new toll-free hotline for assistance with reaching their doctors about ongoing cancer treatments and cancer care.

Toll-free line is 1-888-599-1073
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.

The hotline is provided in partnership by the Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP).

LCP will work to help connect patients with cancer to their doctors. There is also an LCP medical advisor who can help answer questions from patients. LCP is financed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is housed at the LSU Health New Orleans’ School of Public Health.

Food and water safety

  • Listen to water advisories from local authorities to find out if your water is safe for drinking and bathing after a hurricane. You may only be able to use bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, and other uses.
  • If you are in a disaster or emergency, it’s important that you take steps to prevent illness from unsafe food and water.
  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. Throw away perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; also discard foods with an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out.

Floodwaters and cleanup

  • Avoid floodwaters, both driving and walking through them, especially on highways and roads. They could be mixed with sewage or other dangerous contaminants. Or the floodwaters could be covering other dangers, such as exposed electrical wires or sharp objects. For your health and safety, just stay out of the water.
  • Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones during cleanup after a hurricane.
  • Parents: When you return home after a flood, keep your children out of the affected area until cleanup is completed. Don’t allow children to play in or near floodwaters. CDC offers tips to keep your family safe after a flood.
  • If your home was flooded, check for mold growth. CDC offers information on how to clean up mold safely after the flood.

Managing stress and anxiety

  • Dealing with disasters can cause stress and strong emotions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural to feel anxiety, grief, and worry. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family and your community recover. You can call the state's special Keep Calm through COVID hotline. This connects you to trained, compassionate counselors who can offer support and who can direct you to mental health and substance abuse counseling services. Call 1-866-310-7977.
  • The Behavioral Health Recovery Outreach Line connects individuals to real-time support to avoid, prevent or intercept a crisis from occurring. This line offers recovery support 24/7/365 for those with substance use, mental health, mental illness or co-occurring disorders. Additionally, this line is focused on providing assistance to individuals in the healthcare field and as such they can access these services any day, any time. Call the state's 1-833-333-1132 line to speak with a qualified support provider who can connect you to trained specialists and clinicians in multiple languages.
  • People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
  • The Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) is encouraging Louisianans to check out an electronic resource from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Taking Care of Your Own Behavioral Health which promotes positive coping and self-care during these unique times.
  • There are several other resources and guidance documents on the OBH webpage that can be found at: https://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/3883.

Important AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana phone numbers and resources:

  • AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana Member Services: Member Services at 1-888-756-0004 (TTY 1-866-428-7588), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana 24/7 Nurse Call Line: 1-888-632-0009.

For the latest information on Hurricane Laura, visit the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness: www.gohsep.la.gov, or the Louisiana Department of Health: www.ldh.la.gov.