IIn August 2021, with a variable delta rise and hurricane threat looming, President Biden urge People to get COVID-19 vaccinations in case they have to evacuate to a crowded shelter or stay with others indoors. This week, with Hurricane Ian approaching Florida as a Category 4 storm, Biden’s comments resurfaced, mischaracterized As advice on how to literally protect yourself from a hurricane.
But while a vaccine (obviously) won’t prevent hurricane-related infections, it’s still smart to take preventive health measures against COVID-19 in the face of a natural disaster like a hurricane. Preventive health protections allow people to focus on dealing with the immediate effects of a storm. If a large number of people have to shelter together, vaccinations will help slow the spread of infection. Vaccines and boosters also help keep people out of the hospital, freeing up the ability for health care services to care for anyone infected during a storm.
Only time will tell the health effects in Florida after Ian. But before the storm, Few people In the state the latest divalent booster. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 1,200 patients have been evacuated from hospitals across the Fort Myers area, Weather Channel Reports.
There is already some research on how recent hurricanes have worsened people’s health during the pandemic. Power outages during a storm proved fatal to patients. When Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana and Mississippi last year, medical centers there were filled with people hospitalized for COVID-19, many of whom were in intensive care units. One authors wrote in 2022 that storm damage and power outages forced evacuations from health care facilities in both states — a “risky” task, given that COVID-19 patients rely on mechanical ventilation or oxygen. study Posted in Lancet Regional Health – Americas. The desire to limit the spread of the virus has added another layer of difficulties.
According to the same study, Louisiana and Mississippi both had among the lowest vaccination rates in the country when Ida struck. Poor uptake of public health measures, such as low vaccination rates for COVID-19, can make it difficult to determine the best safety guidelines; Gathering in shelters protects people from storms but increases the risk of contracting COVID-19, for example. In the past, many people were afraid to seek shelter for fear of contracting the virus, which would put them at greater risk from the storm. Before COVID-19 vaccines become available, in June Survey 2020 Of more than 7,000 Florida residents, it was found that 73% of respondents believe the risks of contracting COVID-19 in a shelter are greater than those posed by a hurricane. Slightly more than half agreed that they would prefer to remain in place.
However, neither the 2020 nor the 2021 hurricane seasons saw significant spikes in COVID-19 after storms occurred, according to the Lancet Report. This may be in part because there are less routine testing of affected areas after storms. The two major hurricanes — Laura in 2020 and Ida in 2021 — also made landfall at a time when case numbers were declining. Mandates for mask and social distancing were also in place at the time; They are not now.
Beyond the immediate effects, living in the shadow of a pandemic and natural disaster at the same time can have long-term effects – and marginalized communities suffer disproportionately from these effects. multi-year exploratory study In Texas led by the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, in collaboration with Rice University and the Environmental Defense Fund, found that people who suffered the worst economic and mental health impacts after Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017 were four times more likely to lose income during the pandemic, and five times more likely to suffer from anxiety. severely affected by the epidemic, of the people who were not severely affected by the storm.
People affected by pandemic-era hurricanes – including Ian – started from an unlucky baseline. The Lancet The study notes that people’s physical and mental health was already worsened by the epidemic when Ida hit “and likely exacerbated by the devastating shock of Hurricane Ida.” The high rates of mental health disorders, combined with the life-changing potential of COVID-19 and the devastation of hurricanes, make it clear why supporting preventive health measures during hurricane season is a good idea.
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