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COVID-19 and Hurricane Season-20 - The PERFECT storm


Anyone who's ever had to deal with one is likely aware hurricane season is just a few weeks away.

Here in Florida I do disaster health nursing with Red Cross (I'm sure there has to be another ARC nurse or few around here too, anyone?). I've travelled in the past, and have seen a thing or two...but the most insane times I've experienced have been while working evacuation shelters during and after a hurricane.

When a big storm is hitting we might easily have 500+ people riding out the weather in extremely close proximity. Sometimes many MANY more. I believe our official guidance is we can get down to 10 sqft/person, but the reality is when the worst is hitting it can be even less. Practically shoulder to shoulder.

Most times I've worked an evac shelter l've eventually gotten sick. It's a given. We take measures to prevent infection, but at some point it's about just making it through the moment, and getting sick next week can seem laughably far away and unimportant.

But now we have COVID-19, an illlness that really could begin killing clients the next week, too. People are going to be hesitant to come in. Some folks won't have a choice and will be forced to evacuate to the usually steel-structured shelters (migrant workers, or the homeless for instance). Others will suddenly face a dilemma: "Do I go to the shelter and take my chances with COVID-19, or do I stay in my unrated residence and take my chances with "Hurricane ----?"

This is a choice people are going to have to make, and not just in North America, but any place faced with natural disasters during an epidemic.

My sincere hope is we don't get any big storms this year, but as the COVID-19 pandemic has played out, new preparations are becoming the name of the game. Disasters during disasters. What do some of you think about that? Do any of you work in disaster-related fields like your local EOCs, or on disaster planning teams in some capacity?

Anyone in disaster-prone areas please feel free to opine.

(Please note anything I say here is just my opinion and is not official word of the Red Cross).

Edited by NunNurseCat

Thanks herring I can always count on you!

Stay safe everyone, and do your hurricane season preparation checklists that I know you all have and likely review daily. 😉

A Hit With The Ladies, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych. Has 5 years experience.

I'm a Houstonian. We are already getting economically ruined by the oil/natgas industry collapsing coupled with the state economy shutdowns. I was here during Harvey, the supposed "once in five hundred years" hurricane. We are not going to give a hoot about this social distancing stuff any more if there's a major Gulf Coast hurricane. The state economy needs to have reopened yesterday. Corona is going to be the last thing on our peoples' minds when hurricane season hits. We're not New York, we're Texas, so we have our own priorities to deal with.

Well, I understand what you're saying like "we" as southerners, and this idea of doing things in an independent way, and...just I get it.

..but (of course a but) that goes out the window when it comes to us as healthcare workers and using precautions, planning, those kinds of things. We are always careful about infection control, and the economy does not really play into what we do at work. Instead we focus on what we can do to help our populations get healthy or not get sick at all.

This epidemic poses unique challenges due to it being 1)droplet spread and 2)novel 3)virulent. The American culture also poses unique challenges because of independent thought and ways of doing things, people want to do what they want to do.

However, when an illness begins to run through a shelter (a local outbreak of whatever) it must be reported to certain officials (required) and, historically we segregate the sick populations and make sick areas. But now with COVID-19 you might be required to wear a mask in parts of the shelter or, say, be required go to stay an area of the shelter with all of the people choose to not wear masks. Just as in a hospital some areas can require masks.

So yes, I believe if a hurricane hit Texas, many people would care that SARS-Cov-2 is out there versus during Harvey when it wasnt. When we had like 10,000 people in the convention center it was hard enough. Now imagine 10,000+ people and some of them have COVID-19 and don' know it...

Thanks for your reply, I appreciate your take.