The Climate Crisis and Covid-19 — A Major Threat to the Pandemic Response
Just as an active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is getting underway, the entire U.S. hurricane coast, from Texas to the Carolinas, is witnessing explosive outbreaks of Covid-19 cases in communities where physical distancing restrictions have been eased. As an early wake-up call, Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall in Louisiana on June 7, triggering coastal evacuation orders and a federal emergency declaration. Concurrently, temperatures continue to set records throughout the southern United States, while Arizona has been battling multiple historic wildfires that are also requiring communities to evacuate their homes. All this as summer had just begun.
These events suggest that the United States will increasingly face complex, challenging scenarios, given the confluence of our two most pressing global health threats — the rapid emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the insidiously evolving climate crisis. Both these crises disproportionately harm the health of vulnerable and economically disadvantaged people, including those affected by structural racism. Understanding the challenges posed by this conjunction is essential if we are to devise effective and equitable strategies to protect and improve health. Attention must be directed toward key pathways through which the climate crisis threatens efforts to contain SARS-CoV-2 transmission and improve Covid-19 outcomes, which include difficulty maintaining physical distancing, exacerbation of coexisting conditions, and disruption of health care services.