The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active and included, as of early November, six hurricanes that made landfall in the United States during the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Such an event would necessitate a large-scale evacuation, with implications for the trajectory of the pandemic. Here we model how a hypothetical hurricane evacuation from four counties in southeast Florida would affect COVID-19 case levels. We find that hurricane evacuation increases the total number of COVID-19 cases in both origin and destination locations; however, if transmission rates in destination counties can be kept from rising during evacuation, excess evacuation-induced case numbers can be minimized by directing evacuees to counties experiencing lower COVID-19 transmission rates. Ultimately, the number of excess COVID-19 cases produced by the evacuation depends on the ability of destination counties to meet evacuee needs while minimizing virus exposure through public health directives. These results are relevant to disease transmission during evacuations stemming from additional climate-related hazards such as wildfires and floods.
Pei S, Dahl KA, Yamana TK, Licker R, Shaman J. (2020). Compound Risks of Hurricane Evacuation Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States. GeoHealth, 4(12)