With the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season off to a record start, experts are looking at how emergency response could be affected during the pandemic. There are also concerns about how storms could impact efforts at containing the coronavirus.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says this season could bring up to 25 named storms — a record number. A major storm-response issue is how to safely evacuate people, especially those with health and economic concerns. Doing this in a pandemic is even harder.
Lisa Campbell is a professor of marine affairs and policy at Duke University. She says that evacuations due to catastrophic weather events face a serious challenge when it comes to social distancing.
“Even if emergency managers are accounting for the need to social distance in shelters, people's perceptions and heightened anxieties will undoubtedly play a role in deciding to leave or not,” says Campbell. “Sheltering — let's face it — is not very enjoyable under the best circumstances, and it can be extremely stressful already. So when we add on to that a fear of contracting COVID-19, I think you can see how that makes that decision difficult.”
In some areas like Carteret County, there will be separate types of shelters available to help contain and reduce the spread of the virus: sites for people with COVID-19, for healthy folks, and for at-risk and elderly populations.