Caller Times: Preparation for peak hurricane season must include protection against COVID-19

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX)

Climate change is bringing more uncertainty in our daily lives.

As the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report made clear, climate change is affecting many weather and climate events in every region across the globe. These climate extremes include more intense hurricanes with increased precipitation rates, much like what we saw with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. As we approach the peak of hurricane season, it’s more important than ever to prepare yourself, your family, and your loved ones now for the potential impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms.

All the while, we are still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to threaten our communities. These days, keeping safe before, during, and after extreme weather events isn’t limited to making use of life-saving resources like forecasting, sheltering, or evacuating. The way you prepare for extreme weather now must also include protecting yourself, your family, and your loved ones against COVID-19.

The compound crises of a landfalling hurricane and the COVID-19 pandemic could present complex challenges for public health and disaster preparedness and response. Many of the Gulf Coast communities likely to be impacted by hurricanes are also suffering from a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, straining many healthcare systems to their breaking points.

Hurricane Ida has just devastated our neighbors to the east and left destruction in its path. As we work to help the communities impacted by this dangerous storm, we must also be working to prepare for the next.

An unfortunate reality of hurricanes and extreme weather events is that they are community events. They do not impact a single person or even a single family. These events impact everyone in our communities — from your neighbors, family, and friends to local business owners, health care, and front-line workers. This situation is stressful, but there are resources and support here for you.

When a storm hits, many of us may make use of the congregant hurricane evacuation shelters for safety. But it is important that when you seek shelter from one disaster, you do everything you can to prevent creating another one. And we can do that by encouraging everyone that can receive a vaccine to do so.

As Members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and as Texans, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we listen to the experts at our federal agencies, as well as our local emergency managers, and heed their guidance.

Thanks to the incredible work of scientists around the globe, building on decades of research on virology and vaccine technology, Americans have access to three excellent, life-saving vaccines against COVID-19. These vaccines, which are free for you and available for individuals twelve and older, dramatically reduce severe cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations.

The combination of vaccinations, masking, and social distancing make the use of hurricane evacuation shelters safer and more accessible than this time last year. We cannot say it enough: in order to help keep your community safe while using these resources it is imperative that you are fully vaccinated. Increases in COVID hospitalizations are the last thing you and your community need while dealing with the effects of an extreme weather event.

NOAA, the National Weather Service, FEMA, and the CDC are here for you to ensure you have the best available resources and information to be prepared and stay safe.

As the peak of the 2021 hurricane season approaches, taking just three steps will help our communities stay safe ahead of the extreme weather that could come their way.

· Get vaccinated and make sure everyone in your household who is able, is vaccinated too.

· Sign up for hurricane evacuation alerts and do not ignore them. These agencies’ core mission is to keep you safe — and we must trust their advice based off accurate and timely forecasts.

· Protect yourself in hurricane evacuation shelters by wearing masks when necessary and maintaining social distancing.

We have struggled together as a nation over the past year and a half but there is light ahead. Forecasting technology is better than it ever has been and every day more Americans are getting vaccinated. But we must continue to work together so we can heal together. Regardless of the storms ahead, be it a hurricane or working towards ending the COVID-19 pandemic, we can and will overcome them with resiliency.

To learn more about hurricane preparedness and resources available, visit the websites of the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Originally appeared in Caller Times

https://www.caller.com/story/opinion/forums/2021/09/10/forum-prep-peak-hurricane-season-must-include-covid-19-protection/8272504002/

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology