WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Americans in hurricane-prone states to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves in case they have to evacuate from their homes, warning that serious hurricanes could strike this month.
The spread of the coronavirus has been particularly severe in Florida and other parts of the Southeastern United States, which is bracing for major storms as the country heads into the height of the Atlantic hurricane season.
“The bottom line is this: The more we do to prepare, the better off we are when disaster strikes,” Biden told reporters at the start of a meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and other officials.
“We can’t prevent hurricanes from making landfall, but we can prevent people from getting seriously sick and dying from COVID-19,” he said. “If you wind up having to stay in a shelter, you don’t want to add COVID-19 to the list of dangers.”
The president said a spike in COVID-19 infections would exacerbate the already difficult challenges involved in preparing for hurricane season, adding: “It’s likely serious hurricanes are going to come this month.”
Biden met with Criswell, top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and other security and public health officials to discuss efforts to adapt plans for evacuating and sheltering residents given rising COVID-19 infections across the region.
Many Southeastern states with lower vaccination rates have been hard hit by the fast-spreading Delta variant, with Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi accounting for half here of the country’s new cases and hospitalizations, administration officials said last week.
Tensions have increased between the White House and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has sought to block funding for school districts that adopt mask requirements in line with those issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in May forecast an above-normal 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, saying it expected between three and five major hurricanes, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour (178 kph).
Meteorologists have also predicted an above-average season for 2021 but say it should not be as busy as 2020 given the end of the La Niña system that promotes storm formation. The 2020 hurricane season was the most active on record and produced 30 named tropical storms.
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