As Heat Deaths Rise, Inequities Become Clear

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Hundreds of deaths in the Pacific Northwest and Canada are now being reported as the record-shattering heat wave that has engulfed the region for the past five days finally begins to let up. At least 63 deaths in Oregon and 13 just in King County, Washington have been tied to the heatwave, and in British Columbia there have been 486 sudden deaths since Friday, well above the average of 165.Of those who died in Oregon, all were over the age of 45 and most had underlying health conditions.

“This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people,’’ said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “As our summers continue to get warmer, I suspect we will face this kind of event again.’’

Like with most climate change impacts, this extreme heat was not felt equally. Incarcerated people in Oregon have reported extreme temperatures, a lack of cold water, and a disregard for those who have underlying conditions that can make heat exposure more dangerous.

Workers at as-seen-on-TV Voodoo donut shop in Portland, Oregon staged a walkout over the weekend after extreme temperatures caused several employees to show signs of heat exhaustion, and three employees who participated in the strike were eventually fired as management refused to recognize the worker’s recent Unionization. People experiencing homelessness are another group that has been hit particularly hard by this heat wave.

While details are still coming in, Jimmy Jones, executive director of a community action group in Salem, Oregon, explained to WBUR the impact of extreme heat on the state’s homeless population, and said “we had quite a few heat-related medical problems with several people passing away in a neighboring community.”

Sources: Deaths: New York Times $, Washington Post $, Seattle Times $, CNNPBS NewsHourAxiosCBSABCFresno BeeThe HillUSA TodayCNNWeather ChannelBoise State Public RadioNY Mag; Homeless Community: WBURKMVT; Inmates: Oregon Live; Voodoo Doughnut: HuffpostWilliamette WeekEATER; Climate Signals background: Northwest Pacific Heat Wave

This is a quick news brief from Nexus Media (images added by editor).

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