Hurricane Laura collides with the pandemic
Hurricane Laura slammed into the Louisiana and Texas coasts overnight, sending residents in areas hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic scrambling to find shelter. The hurricane was among the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S., and more than 500,000 residents in its path were urged to leave their homes.
The challenge facing officials was immense: evacuate and house thousands of residents, quickly, while also protecting them from the coronavirus.
In Texas, many traditional shelters, which were running at lower capacity to allow for social distancing, had filled up by Wednesday morning, The Texas Tribune reported. Across the region, evacuees were instead urged to book hotel and motel rooms as a safer way to isolate themselves from others who might be infected with the coronavirus.
In many ways, the virus changed the calculus for those weighing the decision to evacuate or hunker down. The risk of catching Covid-19 has made people less likely to evacuate in the event of a hurricane, reported Bloomberg. Others in Laura’s path simply did not have the means to escape because their livelihoods were eviscerated when the economy cratered. And those infected before the storm hit have found it difficult to find accommodations willing to host them.
As of this evening the storm continues to plow through Louisiana, and once it passes, the virus will be harder to track there. Louisiana, one of the states most ravaged by the pandemic, closed its testing sites ahead of the storm. Gov. John Bel Edwards said it would be difficult to get them running again because of the damage from the storm and staffing issues.
Rebuilding looks equally difficult.
Vernon Pierce, who coordinates nonprofit aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit the region in 2017, told The Texas Tribune that he was worried people might be weary of donating cleaning supplies or volunteering to fix damaged homes.
The pandemic, he said, “is going to make it harder to bring people in to help.”
Around 35 vaccines are speeding through human clinical trials, and experts predict that the first vaccines could become available as early as the beginning of next year. Behind those front-runners, more than 60 candidates are preparing to enter trials in the coming year.
With so many promising vaccines so much further along, why would researchers start trials at a time when the world may already have a viable vaccine — possibly even a few of them?
Our colleague Carl Zimmer, who covers science, told us that these slow and steady scientists are betting they can make stronger and cheaper vaccines.
“We don’t know if any of the vaccines that are in clinical trials actually work,” Carl told us. “And the fact that they got into clinical trials quickly does not mean that they’re going to turn out to be the best.”
Many of the leading candidates use a similar approach, and the slower scientists worry that we may be putting too many eggs in one basket. So research groups are designing vaccines that use different approaches, like nanoparticles or T cells. They’re trying new delivery methods, such as nasal sprays, or developing vaccines that they hope can protect people for longer.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 27, 2020
What should I consider when choosing a mask?
- There are a few basic things to consider. Does it have at least two layers? Good. If you hold it up to the light, can you see through it? Bad. Can you blow a candle out through your mask? Bad. Do you feel mostly OK wearing it for hours at a time? Good. The most important thing, after finding a mask that fits well without gapping, is to find a mask that you will wear. Spend some time picking out your mask, and find something that works with your personal style. You should be wearing it whenever you’re out in public for the foreseeable future. Read more: What’s the Best Material for a Mask?
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
The world may also need billions of doses, and some researchers believe their vaccines can meet the demand — and at a fraction of the cost.
“It’s possible that the first wave of vaccines is a luxury good that only wealthy nations can afford,” Carl told us. “And meanwhile, there can be other vaccines that are going to be effective, maybe even more effective, and they’re going to be super cheap.”
The governor of Iowa has ordered bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries and nightclubs to close in six counties starting this evening, amid a spike in cases.
South Korea reported 441 new cases today, its highest daily tally since early March. The government has pointed the finger at doctors on strike and churches’ obstruction of epidemiological efforts.
A lockdown was extended in the Gaza Strip as the densely populated territory faces its first outbreak of community-transmitted cases.
The virus has infiltrated remote island territories of India in the Bay of Bengal, where members of a vulnerable aboriginal tribe have been infected.
What else we’re following
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, spoke today for the first time since stimulus talks stalled weeks ago, raising the possibility of renewed negotiations.
A number of American schools have found the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease in water left stagnant since lockdowns in the spring.
Plastic shower curtain dividers, wooden cubicles, socially distanced desks: See how teachers across the U.S. are adapting their classrooms for the Covid-19 era.
Four sleep-away camps in Maine prevented spread of the virus among more than 1,000 campers and staff members thanks in part to the formation of “bubbles,” a federal study found.
College football is pushing ahead in about two dozen states, but sweeping safety measures like moratoriums on marching bands and tailgating will mean a very different experience.
“I no longer feel like a lone crazy man”: Donald McNeil Jr., The Times’s infectious disease expert, describes the tough task of predicting the future for the coronavirus.
What you’re doing
I love going to the city park. Unfortunately, many parks in Jakarta, especially near my home, are mostly closed during this pandemic. Some friends from Europe, Singapore and Australia know this and they, from time to time, video call me when they take a walk, so I can talk to them and see the park virtually as if I were there.
— Lia Zakiyyah, Jakarta, Indonesia
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.