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Cities across Texas may look to the border for what storm preparations should look like amid COVID-19

Hurricane Hanna flooded parts of the Rio Grande Valley. One city opened separate shelters for coronavirus-exposed people and non-coronavirus exposed people.


As families wait for the water from Hurricane Hanna to recede, Mercedes City Manager Sergio Zavala lays out a bed for a man with no safe place to stay.

Mercedes, Texas, is in the Rio Grande Valley between McAllen and Brownsville.

When rain from the storm collected on the streets and in homes, the City opened two shelters. One of those was dedicated to coronavirus-exposed residents.

“I know the fear and the anxiety that you put COVID and non-COVID in the same room, even though it’s 70 feet apart, there is a measure of anxiety,” Zavala said.


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The City required full PPE gear for workers at the shelter. Everyone who entered was screened and temperature checked.

Social distancing bed space cut available capacity by half.

“It may seem innovative, but it’s really common sense,” Zavala said.

As Hurricane Hanna passed through the Rio Grande Valley, 14 people stayed at the non-coronavirus exposed shelter. About half that amount stayed at the coronavirus-exposed shelter.

Since drier days are back in the Rio Grande Valley, the only shelter open is for COVID-exposed. Zavala said he expects that one to close soon.

WATCH: Texas balancing COVID-19 and Hurricane Hanna response