woman wearing a mask to prevent covid-19 spreadAssistant adjunct professor Dana Rose Garfin, PhD, has been awarded a grant to study the stress effects of hurricane season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Garfin and her co-investigators — E. Alison Holman, PhD, Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, and Gabrielle Wong-Parodi from Stanford University — received a total of nearly $200,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of their Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program.

The project seeks to answer the question of how people make proactive decisions about a hurricane threat during the coronavirus pandemic. Garfin’s research has shown that repeated exposure to stressful events can lead to difficulties in functioning and decision-making over time.

COVID-19 and hurricanes: Two crises at once

Americans living on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts face two crises: hurricane season, which starts on June 1, and spikes in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Millions of people may have the potential to expose others to COVID-19 if they’re asked to flee a storm and go to a shelter.

Others may fear going to a shelter at all.

Hurricane-force winds also have the potential to spread further disease.

Measuring crisis exposure and response

The study will focus on residents from Texas and Florida. The team has previously collected data on residents’ exposure, behavior and response to previous hurricanes.

Garfin’s study will ask respondents to complete two surveys: One at the start of the hurricane season and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a second after the threat of a major hurricane (Category 3, 4 or 5) making landfall.

The participant’s crisis exposure, threat perception, their responses and engagement with health protective behaviors will be measured.

“This project presents a unique opportunity to examine an individual’s response to repeated exposure to hurricanes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, using pre-COVID, prospectively collected data,” Garfin says.