COVID-19 To Go? The Role of Disasters and Evacuation in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Page-Tan, Courtney, & Timothy Fraser (2022). COVID-19 To Go? The Role of Disasters and Evacuation in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Global Environmental Change, accepted January 7, 2021.
51 Pages Posted: 4 May 2021 Last revised: 10 Jan 2022
Date Written: December 4, 2021
Since the start of the pandemic, some U.S. communities have faced record storms, fires, and floods. Communities have confronted the increased challenge of curbing the spread of COVID-19 amid evacuation orders and short-term displacement that result from hazards. This raises the question of whether disasters, evacuations, and displacements have resulted in above-average infection rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study investigates the relationship between disaster intensity, sheltering-in-place, evacuation-related mobility, and contagion following Hurricane Zeta in Southeastern Louisiana and The Wildfires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, California, known as the Glass Fire. We draw on data from the county subdivision level and mapped and aggregated tallies of Facebook user movement from the Facebook Data for Good program’s GeoInsights Portal. We test the effects of disasters, evacuation, and shelter-in-place behaviors on COVID-19 spread using panel data models, matched panel models, and synthetic control experiments. Our findings suggest associations between disaster intensity and higher rates of COVID-19 cases. We also find that while sheltering-in-place led to decreases in the spread of COVID-19, evacuation-related mobility did not result in our hypothesized surge of cases immediately after the disasters. The findings from this study aim to inform policymakers and scholars about how to better respond to disasters during multi-crisis events, such as offering hotel accommodations to evacuees instead of mass shelters and updating intake and accommodation procedures at shelters, such as administration temperature screenings, offering hand sanitizing stations, and providing isolated areas for ill evacuees.
Keywords: evacuation, disaster, pandemic, resilience, COVID-19, GIS, networks
JEL Classification: P1, P4, Z18, D7, C31, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation