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Capitol Correspondence - 06.02.20

Big Picture: National Governors Association Advises States to Prepare Residents for Co-Occurring Pandemic and Natural Disasters

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We are entering a particularly high-risk season for the disability community because many natural disasters, such as hurricanes and subsequent flooding, tend to occur during the summer months. Given that people with disabilities are already disproportionately devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are sharing this reporting by Politico Pulse on the National Governors Association’s recommendations to states to help our members plan ahead.

“While Trump sees the summer as a time of economic revival, emergency management officials fear a terrible combination of natural disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and extreme heat — could lead to a fresh spread of the coronavirus — and that the pandemic could, in turn, set back their work.

States and cities have never had to respond to a large-scale natural disaster during a global pandemic, POLITICO’s Dan Goldberg and Brianna report. The usual support network from neighboring states is frayed because nearly everyone is trying to contain Covid-19. And with FEMA and the National Guard already consumed with supporting the public health response, strapped local officials are improvising as fast as they can.

— The National Governors Association’s advice: that states must be ready to deal with natural disasters while still managing coronavirus. ‘This may create a need for entire strategies to be revised,’ the NGA said in a strategy memo. ‘Additionally, COVID-19-specific precautions, such as social distancing requirements, may create unique challenges for otherwise well-practiced disaster capabilities including evacuation and sheltering.’

The white paper advises governors to remind people that coronavirus isn’t the only event their families need to prepare for, and that their own personnel may be burnt out. ‘With many emergency management operations entering their third month of continuous operation, the additional strain of a second emergency may overwhelm an already stretched system.’”