Potential typhoon headed to the Philippines; impact on pandemic

For those who are tired of the pandemic posts, it’s that time again … we have a storm in the West Pacific.  But even here the shadow of the SARS-COV-2 virus can be seen. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC, who are responsible for tracking for the US in that region) has started formal advisories on WP012020. WP01 is being called Ambo already by the Philippines weather service, who have their own naming convention; if it strengthens as forecast it will be named  Vongfong by other agencies like JTWC).  The storm is forecast to become a weak category one hurricane (typhoon) just before landfall, and sweep across the central and northern Philippines over the next five days.  While not particularly strong, the winds and rain will be disruptive and it could cause the equivalent of over $800 million US in impacts.  Here is the forecast impact swath …

The second question that pops in to mind after “how bad” during this season is “what about the pandemic?”  Unfortunately the things that you need to do to prepare for a tropical cyclone/hurricane are the things you don’t want to do for a pandemic.  Moving people around (evacuations) packing them together in confined spaces (shelters) are going to spread the virus and make it more likely to expose more people – and more exposure means more cases and more deaths.  The Philippines is reporting 11,350 cases (1 per 10,000 population) and 751 deaths at the moment, although many analysts are skeptical of those numbers and the government has extended their quarantine and other measures.  I expect to see a significant spike after this event – if we get good numbers.

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