Officials fear that shelters for people threatened by climate disasters may become coronavirus outbreak hubs as the US prepares for possible hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other extreme weather in the coming months.
The New York Times reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has instructed its employees to keep meetings small and to limit in-office visits to no more than four disaster victims at a time at their field offices.
The agency, states, and nonprofits like the Red Cross are wrestling with the question of how to house future victims during a pandemic, where illness could easily spread within crowded shelters and other relief sites.
“All of these activities that we do during and after disasters are activities that require a lot of people to be in close proximity to each other,” Samantha Montano, assistant professor of emergency management and disaster science at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, told the Times. “And that is the exact opposite of what we need to do to keep people safe from COVID-19.”