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Public Health

Posted on: June 11, 2020

Maricopa County Public Health Announces First Heat Deaths of 2020

high thermometer and bright sun

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Sonia Singh, Maricopa County Public Health, 602-679-3098

Maricopa County Public Health Announces First Heat Deaths of 2020

PHOENIX (June 11, 2020) – After a relatively mild spring, Maricopa County Department of Public Health has confirmed its first three deaths related to heat-related illnesses. One, a male in his 80s, and the other was a male in his 60s. An additional person who passed away in Maricopa County from a heat-related illness is a resident of a neighboring county.  

“Even though much of  our emphasis has been on slowing the spread of COVID-19, it is important that we remember to also take the precautions necessary to stay safe in our summer heat, “said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Disease Control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “This includes staying hydrated, taking frequent breaks from the heat and checking on neighbors.”

While many heat-associated deaths occur outside, one out of four heat-related deaths in Maricopa County occurred indoors last year. The majority of those—over 90% of them—had an air conditioning unit, and of those, 95% either didn’t have their air conditioning turned on or it didn’t function. Individuals who need help can find a list of hydration and cooling centers at heataz.com and caloraz.com.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die in the U.S. from heat than all other natural disasters combined. Last year, 197 heat-associated deaths occurred in Maricopa County due to exposure to environmental heat. This is the highest number of heat-associated deaths on record for Maricopa County. This is the fourth year in a row of record-setting heat deaths counted in Maricopa County.

People suffer heat-associated illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. Common-sense practices will keep you safe and healthy during the summer, including:

  • Drink water before you get thirsty to prevent dehydration
  • Don’t rely on fans as your primary source of cooling
  • Come indoors frequently to an air-conditioned location to cool your core body temperature
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and lightweight clothes
  • Never leave kids, older adults, pets, and others who may rely on you inside of a parked car
  • Check on friends and neighbors, especially the elderly, to ensure sufficient cooling and supplies
  • Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-associated illness like muscle cramps, headaches, vomiting, confusion, no longer sweating, and rapid heart rate

A person is included in MCDPH’s heat-related death data only after the Maricopa County Medical Examiner confirms heat as the cause of death on a decedent’s death certificate. Prior to confirmation, potential cases are listed on Public Health’s website as “under investigation.”

For heat relief resources, statistics, and information on how heat affects vulnerable populations, please visit heataz.com.  

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