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COVID-19

People need basic resources to evacuate safely from disaster zones

Andy Uhler Aug 26, 2020
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A resident runs into a home to save a dog while flames from the Hennessey fire get closer in Napa, California, on Aug. 18. Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

People need basic resources to evacuate safely from disaster zones

Andy Uhler Aug 26, 2020
Heard on:
A resident runs into a home to save a dog while flames from the Hennessey fire get closer in Napa, California, on Aug. 18. Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
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As Hurricane Laura bears down on the Gulf Coast and wildfires continue to rage in Northern California, many Americans have been ordered to leave their homes for their own safety. Evacuations are difficult in normal times, but amid a health pandemic and recessed economy, getting out of town with what you need could be even tougher.

Taylor Thompson is a civil trial attorney in Beaumont, Texas — a town right along Hurricane Laura’s path. He said he left town about a day and a half ago to stay with his parents in Austin. But he’s not the only one there.

“This evacuation makes social distancing a little harder whenever you have your grandparents, your mom — who just finished chemotherapy — your dad and your uncles and aunts all in one house,” Thompson said.

He said the economic hardship of leaving town to stay with his parents is minimal for him. He’s not married and doesn’t have any kids. 

But Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said there are certain things individuals need to get out of harm’s way. 

“To evacuate, you need to have a car, you need to have a full tank of gas, you need to be able to potentially be able to rent a motel room for a night or two if the evacuation shelters are full,” she said.

And in the aggregate, those evacuation costs for Americans add up. 

“There is a number, that number is too big for us to count at the moment,” said Nora O’Brien, an emergency management consultant in California. She said it’s too big because we have disasters on top of disasters and a pandemic. 

She said because these events often straddle state lines, the federal government along with state and local governments have to coordinate resources to move folks from the path of a storm or a wildfire. But government spending is only one piece of the pie. 

“The private sector has a huge role in supporting community recovery when something happens,” O’Brien said. 

And when the evacuation order comes, people just need the resources to get out of a disaster’s way.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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