CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — COVID-19 already is taxing local emergency services, and now, with the arrival of the Coastal Bend's first serious cold front, those agencies will be put further on alert.
People on the street are susceptible to hypothermia, said Corpus Christi Fire Marshal Randy Paige said there is an increase in medical calls during the winter months.
“On the EMS side, we do have an increase (number of ) hypothermia calls for people who didn’t seek shelter, and are staying outside, trying to weather it out," he said. "As cold as it’s going to be tonight, and when it gets down into the 40s and 30s, you really need to find shelter because your body is just not going to be able to adapt to that."
Shelters across the city typically take in extra people during cold days, however, COVID-19 will limit the number of people they can accommodate.
Around 70 people are currently living in the Salvation Army shelter, and it can add up to 10 more people. The shelter has not had any cases of COVID-19, said Salvation Army of the Coastal Bend commanding officer Patrick T. Gesner, in part because they quarantine new arrivals in separate rooms for two weeks before they're allowed to interact with other residents.
“This year, COVID-19 poses those additional risks that we have to be able to meet, while at the same time meeting the needs of those coming off the street," he said. "We have some other things we can do if it’s absolutely necessary, but this is just trying to be safe with COVID-19, while at the same time trying to reach populations. I know some of the other shelters in the area are doing the same kind of thing."
Residents, such as Timothy Mosqueda who has lived at the shelter for three weeks, are grateful for its hospitality, especially during colder months.
“I was sleeping on-and-off out, through the streets with few blankets and stuff," he said. "It’s very hard -- and harsh -- out there to get food. They help you with clothes, and a lot of stuff to warm up in. The beds are comfortable enough to sleep in, and the food is great."
The Salvation Army is collecting jackets and blankets to distribute to people in its shelter, as well as people who live on the streets.
Those wanting to help can drop jackets and blankets off to the Salvation Army at 521 Josephine St., donate through the Salvation Army website, or can call (361) 884-9497 for more information.
Paige also offered tips for those lucky enough to have their own homes, saying they also need to caution this winter.
He mentioned that it is normal for there to be a burning smell when you first turn on your home’s heating system as the dust is burned up.
He also warns people about using space heaters and fireplaces, as they can cause fires if not properly maintained or monitored.