Maricopa County Heat Deaths Up Despite Better Access To Shelters

Published: Sunday, July 28, 2019 - 3:58pm
Updated: Monday, July 29, 2019 - 8:04am
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Jackie Hai/KJZZ

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is currently investigating 18 heat-related deaths that occurred between July 14 and July 20. Many organizations offer air conditioned spaces and water to help people safely avoid the heat.

Cooling stations and emergency heat shelters are usually open during business hours, with many closing around 5 p.m. But in the middle of summer, the sun still gives off heat much later into the evening, and temperatures seldom drop below 90 degrees at night. That’s why Liza Kurtz, a researcher from Arizona State University, says they need to be open longer.

“If you’re homeless, you might be exposed to temperatures well over 90 or even 95 during the nighttime,” said Kurtz. “Your body never gets a period of respite or any time to cool itself. And that can be very dangerous, particularly with people who already have existing health conditions.”

The challenge, Kurtz says, is finding places that can be open late enough to provide shelter.

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