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Corpus Christi, already a coronavirus hot spot, braces for Tropical Storm Hanna

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Employees with the City of Corpus Christi load sandbags into people's cars as Tropical Storm Hannah approaches on July 24, 2020. Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Corpus Christi, already beset by a spike in COVID cases, now faces the dangers of Tropical Storm Hanna. The National Hurricane Service issued a hurricane warning for a section of the Texas coast from Baffin Bay to Sargent — an area that includes Corpus Christi Bay, Copany Bay, Aransas Bay, San Antonio Bay and Matagorda Bay.

The National Weather Service issued a warning of “life-threatening storm surge” for the areas that include Corpus Christi, Rockport and Port Lavaca. Looking to assist, Gov. Greg Abbott dispatched emergency resources to the Coastal Bend region and to the Rio Grande Valley, where the governor is simultaneously sending more than 1,000 medical personnel to help fight the novel coronavirus, which has devastated South Texas.

The city already closed a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Corpus Christi until at least Tuesday, officials said.

“Don’t forget to know,” said Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb, “we’re also fighting the coronavirus.”

It was a stark reminder for a region that has been a coronavirus hot spot, adding well over 2,000 COVID cases during each of the first two weeks of July. At least 2% of the population was infected, or one in every 50 people. Now the region is preparing for a storm in the middle of a pandemic.

The virus wasn’t always spreading so rapidly in Nueces County, which reported fewer than 100 cases and three deaths before Texas’ stay-at-home order expired on April 30. But people spent the summer gathering at beaches and restaurants in the popular beachfront community, and now the county has seen a spike in cases.

Just last Friday, Nueces County Medical Examiner Adel Shaker was shocked to learn that a baby boy, less than 6 months old, had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and died shortly after that.

Storms are nothing new for the Coastal Bend region. McComb said some have helped the community grow closer. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales agreed, and said the region is ready for this storm.

“I join Mayor McComb in saying there is no doubt that we have a tremendous experience when it comes to these kinds of storms,” Canales said. “Where coronavirus may have caught us off guard, a hurricane does not. We know what to do. We know how to help.”

McComb underscored the reality of the coronavirus when warning residents who live in flood-prone neighborhoods about the prospect of evacuation.

“Take several masks with you because you might be there a couple days if you're in a flood area,” McComb said. “We don’t want to expose anyone during this storm… Even when you’re in the house, I recommend wearing a mask if you're in crowded conditions.”