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article imageExtreme heat and COVID-19 make for a dangerous climate mix

By Karen Graham     Jul 26, 2020 in Environment
From the start, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed America's social and economic inequality in stark relief, with people of color, the elderly and people with chronic health issues being impacted the hardest. But another invisible threat looms.
This weekend, much of the United States is swathed in a blanket of sweltering heat, as another heatwave begins. Some regions in the Southern half of the country have already been through a week or more of extreme heat with triple-digit heat indexes.
And with coronavirus cases still surging in many areas, health officials are fearing a collision will soon take place between the coronavirus and the extreme heat - and that could very well be a dangerous combination, according to CNN.
The same groups of people that are most vulnerable to COVID-19 infections are also most effected by extreme heat. And with millions across the country out of work and the virus forcing vulnerable people to stay in their homes, experts say the pandemic is compounding the heat risk for those who are already struggling.
Connie Wheeland  87  pictured here with her son Peter  was a resident at the Herron nursing home bef...
Connie Wheeland, 87, pictured here with her son Peter, was a resident at the Herron nursing home before her transfer to hospital where she was diagnosed with COVID-19
-, The Wheeland family/AFP
"For staying safe from coronavirus, the message is that you're safer at home," said Dave Hondula, a researcher at Arizona State University's Urban Climate Research Center who studies extreme heat and health. "That is true from a coronavirus perspective, but if you don't have sufficient cooling, or are not able to control the temperature of your home, you may not be."
Earlier this month, Digital Journal reported that Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, said "the first half of July looks to have well-above-normal temperatures, at pretty high probabilities, beginning around the Fourth of July or slightly before."
Well, he was right, and because of a very large heat dome, 80 percent of the U.S. population has suffered from the high heat for close to two weeks or more. And, now, this weekend, we are being told to prepare for another extreme heat episode expected to last for several more days.
Britain was hit by a flood of visitors during a heatwave last week
Britain was hit by a flood of visitors during a heatwave last week
Glyn KIRK, AFP/File
HClimate change and the looming threat
When compared to pre-industrial levels, temperatures and the level of greenhouse gases today indicate that the world is creeping dangerously close to the temperature threshold set at the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. And this is why we are experiencing scorching heat waves, wildfires, and devastating floods across the globe more frequently.
According to the Daily Beast, we are now experiencing the "new normal," thanks to climate change, and it will only get worse unless we do something about it.
“The old records belong to a world that no longer exists,” Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told The Washington Post on Thursday.
Union of Concerned Scientists
How heat kills
A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, often accompanied by high levels of humidity. These conditions can kill you if proper precautions are not taken. Actually, excessive heat is the leading weather related killer in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.
A combination of high heat and humidity can lead to heat-related illness, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat-related illness can occur when the ability of the body to cool itself is challenged, or when there are insufficient levels of fluid or salt in the body due to sweating or dehydration.
Heat-related illnesses increase as the combination of temperature and relative humidity increase, but there are other factors involved as well. One factor is called the Heat Index. Basically, it is what the outside temperature "feels like" when relative humidity is accounted for. And relative humidity is a measure of the amount of water in the air compared with the amount of water that air can hold at the current temperature.
The threat is greatest for the elderly, young children, people who are overweight, and those who work outside or exercise during the hottest part of the day, according to the CDC. Paul Schramm, the climate science team lead at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that with so many elderly stuck in their homes, it is a good idea to check on these family members or elderly neighbors daily during this extreme heat.
More about Covid19, extreme heat, Climate change, most vulnerable, Death rate
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