The year of 2020 has been a pretty tough year for everyone, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and we were also already suffering from climate change. But the United States was affected really bad by the components of COVID-19 and climate change. An example is that there was an active Atlantic hurricane heading to the U.S, as well as the whole hurricane coast from Texas to the Carolinas there was an explosive rise in COVID cases in communities where social distancing was not really enforced. Another example is Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall in Louisiana and that forced a coastal evacuation and declared a federal emergency. These are just a few examples of how bad the components of the two greatest threats, COVID and climate change can affect the United States.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the components of climate change such as the intensity and duration of extreme events, made COVID control hard to manage. Standard disaster strategies require large groups of people to evacuate to shelter. This increases the risk of COVID transmission since they are all close together. NEJM stated that COVID health risks are even greater when the weather is very intense, since the widespread damage ends up with mass displacement and it gives the virus the opportunity to go into new locales.
Another example is the heat. NEJM stated that 2020 has the likelihood of being the hottest year ever. The heat is like a multiplier for COVID which scientists predicted, in the southern states COVID cases were rapidly rising, which confirms scientists’ predictions. This also brought up another challenge to the United States in terms of stopping the virus. Wearing N95 masks in the heat is extremely uncomfortable, and according to NEJM, it can create a risk for heat-related illness. But the outcome of not wearing a mask is that it can increase the spread of COVID-19.
Cardiovascular and chronic pulmonary disease are known as factors of severe COVID-19, but it is also closely linked to climate change through the effects of extreme heat, ground-level ozone, wildfire smoke, and increased pollen. NEJM states climate change complicates patients to get best COVID-19 treatment. Climate change can generate “climate casualties” that seek care in places that are already filled with COVID-19 patients.
NEJM believes the response towards climate change and to the pandemic has been insufficient and dangerous, doing the most damage to the most vulnerable communities. They believe that the responses to both of these cases are deployed, fragmented government action, unfairly criticizing the scientific evidence. They believe that in order to manage both crisis effectively we need a coordinated response and firmly trust in science that values health. We also need to make concrete actions that are focused on the intersections between the pandemic and climate change. Standard evacuation and sheltering would have to be modified to prevent the spread of COVID. A long term action would have to be prioritizing federal and state funding for mitigation plans to prepare for future extreme weather events and also using an approach that takes all hazards into account.