Pandemic complicates emergency response to Hurricane Laura
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The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated emergency response efforts for those who had to evacuate to escape Hurricane Laura in Texas and Louisiana. The need for social distancing means emergency officials had to find alternatives to big, crowded evacuation centers.
What’s the best place for emergency officials to put thousands of evacuees when they arrive in a city seeking temporary shelter from a hurricane during a pandemic? Bryce Bencivengo is the spokesman for the Austin, Texas, emergency management office.
“With kind of our options being limited, we are using this time hotel rooms,” he said.
The city has paid to put 3,000 people in 21 hotels in the area, Bencivengo said. The state of Louisiana booked 1,700 rooms for evacuees.
Last week, the ailing hotel sector in Texas was at less than 50% capacity due to the pandemic. Now in cities like Austin and San Antonio, it’s at nearly 100%, according to Justin Bragiel, general counsel with the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association.
“It’s not the kind of business we’re hoping for, but there can be economic activity that results from it,” he said.
Bragiel said the state is paying the hotel bills and then will seek reimbursement from the federal government.
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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