A Gathering Storm

With state and national emergency resources strained and social distancing nearly impossible in shelters, summer storm season poses a new threat during the pandemic.

Cyclone Amphan made landfall in India and Bangladesh today, challenging authorities as they try to protect people from the storm and coronavirus. India has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while Bangladesh has 25,000.

Millions of people were evacuated in anticipation of the storm in both countries, but some residents fearing infection have refused to move into shelters. India and Bangladesh are using schools and other buildings as temporary shelters, but they need more space to maintain social distancing. Some cyclone shelters are already being used to house quarantined virus patients and migrant workers returning to their home villages after cities shut down. 

As the Atlantic Basin prepares to enter hurricane season, Louisiana and Florida are beginning to make pandemic storm preparations. Only fifteen years have passed since Hurricane Katrina felled New Orleans, which at one point fueled the highest rate of new coronavirus cases anywhere in the world.

Earlier this month, the CDC released guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for people staying in disaster shelters during severe weather events.

As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, governments must be prepared to handle dual threats.