Army in the South continues services as impact of COVID-19 pandemic grows
By: Dan Childs
While the eyes of the nation remain fixed on New York as the hottest trouble spot in the U.S. in the COVID-19 public health crisis, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia remain as the most affected states among the 15 in the USA Southern Territory.
In Louisiana, some 9,150 coronavirus cases had been documented as of this past Friday, with 310 deaths. Elsewhere in the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division, Alabama had 1,270 cases and 17 deaths, and Mississippi reported 1,177 cases and 26 deaths.
Salvation Army thrift stores in ALM are closed but are monitoring the needs of residents in need of clothes and household items. The division’s area commands, corps and service centers are providing food pantry distribution, utility and rent assistance, homeless shelter operations and some to-go meals and mobile food service delivery.
Florida reported 9,008 coronavirus cases as of Friday, with 144 deaths. The division’s Emergency Disaster Service has provided goods to 18 commands across the division, including MREs, hygiene kits, Midwest food boxes, surgical masks and gloves. EDS also placed shower trailers at Orlando Area Command to accommodate the increased number of shelter beds and at a Catholic Charites homeless encampment in Tampa. Most commands throughout the Florida Division continue to deliver services, modifying their operations as necessary.
As of April 2, Georgia had 5,444 reported coronavirus cases, with 176 fatalities. Georgia residents in all 159 counties have been directed to shelter in place unless providing essential services. All schools will remain closed, meeting in virtual classrooms, until the end of the academic year.
Corps and service centers are ramping up feeding services with CDC protective measures incorporated. Larger numbers of clients are being fed, and non-perishable food is being distributed, with emphasis placed on seniors and others who are at high risk, families with children and to people in areas with limited access to transportation.
Shelters in Georgia have expanded services to allow social distancing, and most are offering 24-hour sheltering for homeless people. The division continues to offer utility assistance, food and clothing to clients via phone and other methods not requiring physical contact.
Across the South, the centers of the Adult Rehabilitation Centers Command continue to house, feed and support the beneficiaries enrolled in the program, and the command is providing cargo truck support to divisions as requested, based on availability.
Elsewhere across the USA South:
AOK – Arkansas and Oklahoma had reported a combined number of 1,558 COVID cases by Friday. Corps in the division continue with regular services while practicing social distancing guidelines as prescribed by the CDC. Lack of personal protective equipment is becoming an issue, and food supplies are diminishing quickly.
KT – Some 2,845 of the 3,615 coronavirus cases in the division have been reported in Tennessee, where authorities in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga have identified alternative sites where up to 7,000 beds will be available to patients. Authorities in Louisville have been moving ahead to establish a field hospital at the city’s fairgrounds with at least 2,000 beds. The division continues to provide shelter, feeding and emotional and spiritual care in response to the crisis.
MWV – The division is exploring new initiatives within the realm of emotional and spiritual care with a view to helping officers in this extended response to the public health crisis. Emailed to corps officers was a resource titled “Socially Distant Random Acts of Kindness.”
NCV – The division has assigned a new planning chief role to develop a long-term response plan for NCV. In the District of Columbia and Virginia, 2,665 cases had been reported by last Friday.
NSC – Commands are delivering services, modified as needed locally and incorporating CDC protective measures. Shelters throughout the Carolinas are coordinating operations closely with divisional social services and public health officials. Some 3,647 COVID cases had been reported in the Carolinas as of Friday.
Texas – The division is resupplying personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and food boxes to corps, service centers and area commands as needed and available. The Salvation Army is working with state and local jurisdictions to address urgent needs, including logistics, supplies and programs that are part of the COVID response.
The top three priorities for the Army continue to be keeping Salvation Army housing programs open, continuing to provide meals to needy individuals and families and distributing essential supplies, such as food boxes, cleaning products and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.
The territory continues to offer an Emotional and Spiritual Hotline (844-458-4673) manned by 16 Salvation Army officers and employees from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, with Spanish-language assistance available. Calls are being received from across the U.S. Additional personnel have been trained to provide counseling as call volume increases.