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In the midst of pandemics, massive floods, outages force difficult decisions

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In the midst of pandemics, massive floods, outages force difficult decisions
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In the midst of pandemics, massive floods, outages force difficult decisions

 

Ashley Archer, a pregnant, 33-year-old Texas financial advisor, and her husband have been cautious about the coronavirus. They work from home, go out mostly if they are in public only to get groceries and wear masks.

But when a friend lost power in the winter storms that left millions of Texans in freezing temperatures without heat, the couple had to make a choice: should they take an extra risk of helping someone in need?

Archer said they didn’t hesitate. They took their best friend’s husband to their home in suburban Dallas.

She said, “He’s like a family.” At his house, we weren’t going to let him freeze. We figured, ‘Okay, we’re prepared to take a little risk because you’re not in our little pandemic group.’

In the pandemic era, weighing the risks is fraught enough. But a whole new layer of complexity has been added to the storms and outages that have hit a big swath of the U.S. over the past several days.

Do we open doors to the neighbours? Will we stay or go to a shelter in a hotel? And what to do, the most basic precautions, when there is no running water, about hand-washing?

For Jonathan Callahan, the last few months have been challenging enough. In Jackson, Mississippi, he lost his job cleaning mail trucks and soon found himself homeless, sleeping at night in an abandoned church. Then, this week, a storm struck the Mississippi, bringing snow bumps and freezing temperatures.

Callahan, 40, was one of 14 people living in the Jackson community center’s warming shelter, with cots scattered across the gym. He said the room was spacious, meals were offered, and he and some others were playing a basketball pickup game that “warmed us right up.”

He said he felt relaxed with the precautions for the coronavirus; he and most of the others wore masks and there was space for distance.

He said, “I’m grateful they let us be here.” “If we weren’t here, where would we be? ”

Public health experts say that crowding individuals into shelters will lead to the spread of COVID-19, but through masks and distancing, there are ways to reduce the risks.

“The ethics of the situation are simple enough,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a homeless health researcher who operates a homeless veterans’ clinic. “Tomorrow, we can’t stop people if they die today. It needs warming stations.

The storms that have disrupted social precautions and brought people together from different households have also undermined the vaccination push of the country, stranded with tens of thousands of vaccine doses and cancelled inoculations. Concern in some areas is mounting.

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said Thursday that he is preparing to send the National Guard to the South to carry back hold-up vaccine shipments intended for the state. He said that without having any new doses, the state can’t afford to go a week.

And North Carolina vaccine suppliers have yet to receive tens of thousands of doses the federal government was scheduled to distribute this week, state officials said.

Like Archer, her family has been very vigilant about the coronavirus because her husband is in a vulnerable category, Ella Ewart-Pierce, a public health researcher, said. The couple from Dallas worked from home, avoiding areas where people gather and getting food delivered.

But the risk equation changed as they lost control. Ewart-Pierce said they decided on Monday to take their young children to a hotel after their home got so cold that they had to shut the water off to keep the pipes from bursting.

Ewart-Pierce said, “It was 13 degrees outside and our house was 38 degrees inside.” “The children were already crying because they were cold, even though all their clothes had been worn.”

“It was a scene,” Ewart-Pierce said, when the family arrived at the hotel they expected to stay at until Sunday.

“One lady was trying to find out where to buy her baby formula. There are families and a lady with a blanket in a wheelchair. It’s a hotel with pets, so the dogs were there,’ she said.

While there, they take precautions, she said, including wearing two face masks each and maintaining their distance from other individuals. With the hotel restaurant open but forbidden from eating, they eat on the floor of their suite.

In Austin, Anissa Ryland was also forced to move to a hotel with her family. At around 2 a.m., at their 115-year-old home, she, her husband and their five children lost control. Monday and left following a frigid night.

The thermostat read only 7 degrees above zero when they returned Tuesday to pick up supplies, and icicles had begun to grow.

The family could remain with neighbours or family under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has made it more difficult. For one thing, one of her children has a weakened immune system, she said.

“Ryland said, “You have to weigh the risks and say,’ Danger now versus a theoretical risk.’ “How are you going to do that? It’s a complicated conversation.

Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello, a New York-based public health specialist who has worked in the area for two decades, said that considering the weather problems, people still need to try to take precautions in the face of the coronavirus exhaustion they have experienced and continue to wear masks when attempting to achieve social distance.

“If you have no heat in your home and it’s 40 degrees in your home, in those situations, it is not necessarily safe for you to be in your own home so you may be forced to go to someone else’s home,” she said. “I think it’s hard, it’s a balance. I assume that if people gather with people they know are vaccinated, there might be less risk.

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