Compound hazards: An examination of how hurricane protective actions could increase transmission risk of COVID-19.
Additional Document Info
Hurricane season brings new and complex challenges as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted nearly twice the normal number of tropical storms and hurricanes this season, while projections of COVID-19 models continue to rise in the United States as the Atlantic hurricane season progresses. Our research examines the critical intersection of hurricane response and public health in Harris County, Texas. We examine a hypothetical case of the 2017 Hurricane Harvey occurring amid the current pandemic. This research uses point of interest visitations as location intelligence data provided by SafeGraph together with Social Vulnerability Index and historical flood data to examine the critical intersection of natural hazard planning and response and the COVID-19 pandemic to assess the risks of a compound hazard situation. COVID-19 transmission hotspots and businesses in a community due to storm preparation activity were identified. The main drivers of transmission risk arise from overall pandemic exposure and increased interpersonal contact during hurricane preparation. Residents of health-risk areas will need to make logistical arrangements to visit alternative medical facilities for treatments related to either COVID-19 or physical impacts, such as injuries, due to the hurricane risks. Points of interest needed for disaster preparation are more likely to be situated in high-risk areas, therefore making cross-community spread more likely. Moreover, greater susceptibility could arise from social vulnerability (socioeconomic status and demographic factors) and disrupted access to healthcare facilities. Results from this study can be used to identify high-risk areas for COVID-19 transmission for prioritization in planning for temporary healthcare centers and other essential services in low-risk areas. Understanding the interplay between disaster preparation and the restrictive environment laid out by the pandemic is critical for community leaders and public health officials for ensuring the population has sufficient access to essential infrastructure services. The findings from this study can help guide the direction of disaster planning and pandemic response strategies and policies.