COVID-19? We are not even ready for a hurricane.

The hurricane made landfall during the early morning hours. When I woke up, all I saw was devastation. Highway 288 transformed into a lake. The bayou running underneath was completely flooded with water spilling into the roads. The park, a place where I find solace in every day, was unrecognizable. People had abandoned their vehicles. I could see them all submerged. The garage floor was underwater, and the roads that lead to and from my apartment were not traversable.

I told myself something else was wrong, and it took me a minute to figure out what it was. Silence.

My fridge stopped humming. The highway sounds that comforted me during the night were nonexistent. The roaring of ambulances passing by my place to the medical center was gone. There was no more rain and no more wind, but I knew those two would come back and not leave the city alone.

When I walked downstairs, I met several people as awe-struck as I was. Few of us spoke; none of us pulled out our phones to record the water. We stood there. I was with an older man who started to cry, and I began to cry with him.

After making landfall, the governor deployed the entire national guard, but this effort wasn’t enough. We needed the help of the whole country and every capable civilian to push through this tragedy, to rebuild. The hurricane was a catastrophe. It displaced thousands of people out of their homes, inflicted millions of dollars in damage, and led to an untold number of deaths.

It was almost three years ago when Hurricane Harvey devastated my city of Houston. If a hurricane comes through the Gulf of Mexico this summer, during this ensuing COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences are both predictable and not. Thousands more will be dead. Would social distancing even possible? Will our ERs and ICUs surpass capacity?

If history tells us anything, a significant influx of sick and injured people always follows the path of natural disasters. We have yet to find a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, so how exactly is my city and others in Louisiana, Florida, and across the East Coast expected to fight off both a pandemic and a hurricane? I don’t want to believe this is a possibility, but it is already forecasted that this coming hurricane season could be the worst on record. And some cities haven’t even experienced their outbreak peaks yet. Houston is one of them.

As human beings, altruism is an innate quality that makes us act in the most selfless ways in times of catastrophe. This summer will require both altruism and people who have never volunteered in their lives to step up and help. We need businesses and companies with the capital, manpower, and influence to assist with city, state, and nationwide efforts to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for a pandemic-hurricane worst-case scenario.

We were not prepared for COVID-19, and we can also choose not to prepare for the summer. We can choose to panic when we hear of an incoming hurricane, like many of us did when COVID-19 came to our doorsteps. Or, we will prepare and educate ourselves on what’s happening, respond by putting aside our political differences, using common sense logic, and looking at the facts, and most of all, caring for our family, friends, and neighbors.

Hurricane season starts on Monday, June 1, and the timer has already begun.

Ton La, Jr. is a medical student, can be reached on LinkedIn, and is affiliated with GetUsPPE.org.

Image credit: Ton La, Jr.

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