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Giving Compass' Take:
• New challenges will be coming to communities entering hurricane season this year due to COVID-19.
• How will coronavirus change evacuation planning? How might donors change their disaster relief strategies to address the added challenges?
• Check out these vetted COVID-19 response and relief funds.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season starts today, and federal scientists expect storms to be more frequent and powerful. Two named storms already formed in the Atlantic this spring before the official start of the season. As Florida and other coastal states plan for hurricanes, they are confronting troubling new public safety calculations because of the novel coronavirus.
There's now a chance for one disaster to layer upon another. Many lives could be lost: first, from powerful winds, storm surges and flooding, and then through the spread of the coronavirus in cramped public shelters following mass evacuations. Evacuees might pass the virus to friends and relatives who take them in, or get infected themselves in those new surroundings.
"The risks are significant," said David Abramson, a professor at New York University's College of Global Public Health, whose research examines the health consequences of hurricanes. "A lot of hurricane events lead to evacuations and displacements" without much time to build in social distancing safeguards, he said.
The hardest problem in planning for a hurricane during a pandemic could be public confusion over whether to evacuate or stay at home, said Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Obama.
Others may stay put just because they are among the tens of millions nationally who have lost their jobs and feel they cannot afford to flee to hotels or family inland. As a result, some emergency managers along the Gulf Coast are trying to line up more shelters for the greater number of evacuees they expect, a move certain to stretch local and state budgets already tattered by the economic downturn.
For its part, FEMA has updated its hurricane guide to include material on staying safe in the pandemic, including social distancing, wearing cloth face coverings and following recommended cleaning practices.
Read the full article about hurricane season by James Bruggers at InsideClimate News.