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Hurricane season could heighten the impact of COVID-19

Researchers believe there’s still time to combat these potentially severe consequences

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A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Central Florida explored what kind of impact the upcoming hurricane season could have on the COVID-19 pandemic

According to the researchers, there’s room for a great deal of chaos and destruction if experts don’t act fast. These combined disasters could affect how relief organizations operate and further ramp up hospital stays, among several other concerns. 

“The COVID-19 crisis will very likely increase the impacts associated with the climate extreme events that will inevitably occur somewhere across the globe over the next weeks or months or already have occurred,” said researcher Thomas Wahl. “For example, shelters cannot operate at full capacity, health care systems are already under pressure, and emergency funds are depleted.” 

Preparing ahead of time

Wahl, whose specialty at UCF is in Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering, joined forces with experts in several departments to determine the impact that both a hurricane and COVID-19 could have on the country. They focused on four main points of concern for their work: infrastructure, water, health, and food. 

The researchers determined that much of the devastation that occurs when natural disasters hit is connected, which makes the after-effects that much more problematic. Moreover, it’s the systems that are already weak that tend to get hit the hardest, making the destruction that much harder to come back from. 

The team predicts that the same will happen when a hurricane hits during the current pandemic; however, because of already limited resources, there is an even greater concern. 

Wahl says typical avenues for relief and assistance are already compromised because of the pandemic, and trying to aid both efforts will be difficult. The researchers hope that these findings, and the interdisciplinary approach they took to get to them, inspire lawmakers to prepare ahead of time to mitigate the damages as much as possible. 

“It’s important to recognize and treat connected extremes as such, and for scientists from different fields to engage directly with stakeholders and decision makers to develop new, robust, and flexible policies to better combat their negative impacts,” said Wahl. 

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