Authors: Stephen Wong, Jacquelyn Broader, Susan Shaheen, PhD
Date: October 1, 2020
Well planned and coordinated evacuations are critical to saving lives during natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, wildfires) and human-caused disasters (e.g., chemical spills, terrorism). To complicate matters, recent wildfires in the western United States (U.S.) and multiple hurricanes in the Gulf Coast have coincided with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of mid-October 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to over 7.9 million positive cases and over 217,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures that were introduced to address COVID-19 may conflict with evacuation orders that employ high-capacity evacuation vehicles (e.g., buses), congregate shelters, and resource sharing (e.g., carpools, relief supplies, food distribution). Evacuations may become spreading events for the virus if destinations (or origins) have high trans-mission rates, compounding the risks of COVID-19 and the disaster. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the risks to vulnerable populations, who may have limited mobility and lack access to essentials such as jobs, food, healthcare, and COVID-19 testing.