The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned countries of the dual threat posed by COVID-19 and hurricanes, with Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne calling Tuesday on national and local authorities in countries at risk for hurricanes to prepare for the 2021 hurricane season.
She warned that COVID-19 and the potential devastation of high winds and flooding make preparation even more critical than usual.
“We must ensure that health services are fully operational to save lives and protect the well-being of populations before, during and after hurricanes,” Etienne asserted.
“We must also make sure that emergency care, hospitalization, ICU beds, laboratories, and quarantine and isolation centers are protected and functional,” the PAHO Director stated.
Experts predict that the Atlantic Hurricane season which officially began on June 1, will have a 60% chance of above-normal activity.
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the forecast is for 13 to 20 named storms, including 6 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 5 major hurricanes.
PAHO says it is working to provide emergency supplies and assist in securing critical facilities in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
At the same time, the PAHO Director has urged officials, particularly those in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and northern South America, to update national hurricane response plans and conduct simulation exercises.
She said countries should refine evacuation plans, taking into consideration additional measures for physical distancing and extra hygiene and sanitation in shelters.
Etienne also urged countries to strengthen health care services by ensuring that surge staff and essential supplies and protective equipment will be readily available when needed.
She indicated that these measures and actions are especially important for countries and territories still suffering the consequences of the highly destructive 2020 hurricane season.