Due to rising cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., Mennonite Disaster Service announced Nov. 19 it is suspending projects in Florida and North Carolina.
“Although none of the volunteers who have gone to those projects have contracted the virus, we want to err on the side of caution,” said field operations manager Jerry Grosh.
Grosh noted the rising number of cases in counties where volunteers are coming from as another reason for the suspension.
“We don’t want to transport the virus from one place to another,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors to the people who live in places where we serve.”
The projects were opened in October, after MDS evaluated the risk and instituted strict COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and protocols.
The project in Marianna, Fla., where MDS is repairing homes damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018, will not accept any new weekly volunteers. Long-term leadership volunteers will finish what they can and then secure the homes from rain or inclement weather before leaving.
The project in Pollocksville, N.C., where Hurricane Florence hit in 2018, is closing Nov. 28, wrapping up work after Thanksgiving.
The project in Coastal Bend, Texas, which was hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, will close as scheduled for Christmas on Dec. 10. Volunteers at that project have been working together for the fall season and are serving through MDS’s recreational vehicle program.
MDS will continue to monitor the situation and decide in December whether or when to return to the projects in 2021.
MDS will resume operations at the projects “only when it is safe to do so,” Grosh said. “We want to get people back home, but we need to do it in a way that protects the safety and health of our volunteers and the communities they serve in.”