Natural Disasters Further Strain COVID-19 Response

Dealing with Hurricane Isaias and other natural disasters in the midst of a public health crisis gives us a glimpse into the future, when a warming world will cause worsening disasters and more heat-related health challenges.

As the New York Times reported, the combination of tropical storms, wildfires and other disasters, coming after months of prior disasters and the struggle to deal with the pandemic, has taken a growing toll on the nation’s disaster response system.

As climate change leads to warmer oceans, hurricanes are getting more frequent and intense. Hurricane Isaias was the ninth named tropical system in the Atlantic so far in 2020, making it two months ahead of the historic average of the ninth named system coming in October. Hurricane season is about two weeks ahead of record pace currently, while only one-third of the way through. Colorado State University researchers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict an “extremely active” 2020 season, with 24 named storms, including 12 total hurricanes, 5 of them major.

Between two and three million lost power during the Isaias, further straining emergency planning departments and forcing COVID-19 testing sites to close.

The twin disasters of climate change and the pandemic have something else troubling in common – both disasters have disproportionately hurt minorities, exposing inequalities that already exist.