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Red Cross in Ohio prepares for relief effort in path of Laura

Due to the risks of COVID-19, the Red Cross has altered their usual relief strategy for people who may be displaced by the storm.

FINDLAY, Ohio — As the Gulf Coast region braces for hurricane Laura to make landfall tonight, hundreds of Red Cross personnel are already in place to help.

But they are also making sure their plans account for the coronavirus as well. 

American Red Cross Northcentral Ohio Chapter Executive Director Todd James said about 700 trained disaster response personnel are in place from Texas to Alabama to help in disaster relief.

RELATED: 'Extremely Dangerous' Hurricane Laura gains even more strength | Watch live coverage

But because of the risk of coronavirus spread, the Red Cross has altered their usual relief strategy for people who may be displaced by the storm.

"We're trying to do non-congregate sheltering. So, basically we're putting people in hotels or places where they can be by themselves versus having a congregate shelter," James said.

Although boots on the ground are as important as ever, James said the Red Cross has also been figuring out how to offer virtual relief.

Since a lot of what Red Cross volunteers do is connecting people with services they need, they can do that over the phone or through the internet. 

The basis of this new virtual strategy has already become a regular practice on a smaller scale at the local level.

"A lot of our local disaster response; our home fires are being done as virtually as possible. Because the safety of our workforce and our clients is our top priority. So, we've been able to put practices in place where we don't necessarily have to be there in person and have contact," James said.

James added along with financial donations and volunteering, the best way to help the Red Cross in disaster relief during a pandemic is by donating blood. To find the nearest blood donation drive, you can simply visit RedCrossBlood.org.

RELATED: Hundreds of thousands flee US coast ahead of Hurricane Laura

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