Mitigating the Twin Threats of Climate-Driven Atlantic Hurricanes and COVID-19 Transmission

James M. Shultz, James P. Kossin, Attila Hertelendy, Fredrick Burkle, Craig Fugate, Ronald Sherman, Johnna Bakalar, Kim Berg, Alessandra Maggioni, Zelde Espinel, Duane E. Sands, Regina C. Larocque, Renee N. Salas, Sandro Galea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The co-occurrence of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic creates complex dilemmas for protecting populations from these intersecting threats. Climate change is likely contributing to stronger, wetter, slower-moving, and more dangerous hurricanes. Climate-driven hazards underscore the imperative for timely warning, evacuation, and sheltering of storm-threatened populations - proven life-saving protective measures that gather evacuees together inside durable, enclosed spaces when a hurricane approaches. Meanwhile, the rapid acquisition of scientific knowledge regarding how COVID-19 spreads has guided mass anti-contagion strategies, including lockdowns, sheltering at home, physical distancing, donning personal protective equipment, conscientious handwashing, and hygiene practices. These life-saving strategies, credited with preventing millions of COVID-19 cases, separate and move people apart. Enforcement coupled with fear of contracting COVID-19 have motivated high levels of adherence to these stringent regulations. How will populations react when warned to shelter from an oncoming Atlantic hurricane while COVID-19 is actively circulating in the community? Emergency managers, health care providers, and public health preparedness professionals must create viable solutions to confront these potential scenarios: elevated rates of hurricane-related injury and mortality among persons who refuse to evacuate due to fear of COVID-19, and the resurgence of COVID-19 cases among hurricane evacuees who shelter together.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-503
Number of pages10
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Volume14
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • climate change
  • climate drivers
  • evacuation
  • hurricane
  • mitigation
  • pandemic
  • sheltering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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