What Does COVID-19 Have to Do With Hurricanes?
For more than two months now, many American businesses have been closed. Countless numbers of people have been sheltering in place. And wearing masks when out in public.
Still, the number of positive COVID-19 tests and deaths has risen dramatically. As of this writing, there have been over 1.5 million confirmed cases in the U.S. And more than 93,000 deaths.
Now, almost every state is loosening restrictions. Businesses are opening back up and people are out and about.
Most of those businesses are putting safety precautions in place. And many people are practicing social distancing. The question is, will these reopenings result in another surge of infections?
The “new normal” will look different depending on what state you live in. Some, such as Alaska, have opened up just about everything.
Elsewhere, restaurants and bars are reopening with limited capacity and physical distancing. Others continue to offer pickup and delivery services only.
South Carolina reopened amusement parks and water parks. Just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Kentucky has reopened gift shops. At Illinois stores, it’s still curbside pickup only.
Every state would love to return to business as usual. Especially as unemployment has reached 14.7 percent nationally. But officials are afraid another surge could result.
There has been talk about how Americans’ health could be jeopardized by reopenings. And that hospitals and other medical facilities might be overrun.
But some doctors are worried about the opposite. They believe health issues will arise from not reopening soon. Hundreds of them sent a letter to President Donald Trump. They said the shutdown could have “exponentially growing health consequences.”
They claim patients are missing routine checkups that could detect serious problems. Others cite an increase in alcohol and substance abuse.
In addition, some people are experiencing financial instability. Which has been linked to poor health.
Meanwhile, the race is on to develop a vaccine. Numerous labs are creating and testing. Some companies say a vaccine could be ready before year’s end.
Other medical personnel remind the public that vaccines usually take years to develop. Among them is Dr. Dan Barouch. He’s a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
He said, “What people don’t realize is that normally vaccine development takes many years. Sometimes decades. To compress the whole vaccine process into 12 to 18 months is really unheard of.”
Scientist William Haseltine has a warning. There may never be an effective vaccine against the coronavirus. “I wouldn’t count on it,” he said. He added that the key to controlling the virus is identifying and isolating the infected.
As if COVID-19 did not present enough challenges. Some Americans are worried about hurricane season. And how it might factor in to the threat of this pandemic.
Hurricane season normally begins around June 1. But it started early this spring with Hurricane Arthur. The storm struck the North Carolina coast last week.
Emergency officials in hurricane-prone states are concerned. Not only with people’s safety. But also with what’s being called “disaster fatigue.”
Bill Wheeler is the deputy emergency management coordinator of Houston, Texas. Here’s what he said. “We have disaster fatigue. They’re tired of seeing the (coronavirus) numbers, they’re tired of seeing the news. They’re tired.”
One of the big concerns officials have is where people will go if they need shelter from a hurricane.
Normally, people could temporarily crowd into designated shelters. Or even a stadium. Such as what many did at the Louisiana Superdome during Hurricane Katrina.
But that would involve large groups of people coming into close contact with each other. And that increases the likelihood of the virus spreading.
Here’s what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said. “This virus really thrives and transmits when you have close sustained contact with people inside an enclosed environment.”
“As you’re looking for sheltering for a hurricane, you have to keep that in mind. If you pile people into a place… that would potentially allow the virus to really spread.”
Many meteorologists predict an active hurricane season. Just what we need, right?
The psychological effects may be as strong as the physical effects.
Susan Silk is a psychologist and mental health worker for the American Red Cross.
She encourages officials to “craft a message that people won’t tune out (and) that won’t induce more disaster fatigue.”
The Red Cross suggests that people limit “exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster. Especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.”
There is reason to suspect this hurricane season could be a rough one. Not to mention future hurricane seasons.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted a study recently.
It revealed that over the past four decades, hurricanes have strengthened in intensity. In almost every region of the world. And they’re moving more slowly over land. Which means more rainfall and more flooding.
The study shows an increasing probability of tropical cyclones becoming major hurricanes. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was the fourth consecutive above-normal season. With 18 named storms.
2020 has been a doozy so far. And we’re not enough halfway through it. Things could get much worse before they get better. Please do whatever you can to prepare.