JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The health risks are higher for some people facing the first heat wave of summer with COVID-19.
Jacksonville is facing the summer’s first heat wave at a time when many people try to avoid cool retreats like air-conditioned movie theaters, libraries, restaurants and malls.
The last six days temperatures have been over 92 degrees and the forecast is calling for the upper 90s this weekend. Summer heat shows no end, for at least a dozen consecutive days above 90 are likely through early July.
Heat is the nation’s top weather killer, surpassing hurricanes and tornadoes.
The World Health Organization says people over 65 years old -- especially beyond 85 -- are considered the most vulnerable when COVID-19 and high heat combine.
Researchers have found that more than 80% of heat’s victims are over 60. Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University, fears the social isolation of COVID-19 could increase risk of heat-related deaths.
Others with underlying health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, kidney disease, diabetes/obesity, mental health issues are at extra risk from the hot days ahead.
Younger outdoor workers should be cautious during the hottest times of the day.
The additional strain imposed by heat stress on top of a suboptimal immune function in some people will further weaken their immunity against COVID-19.
In addition, COVID-19 prevention measures such as “shelter in place” may exacerbate isolation and vulnerability to extreme heat.
The social networks of many of these groups of people may not be available due to COVID-19, leaving them even more vulnerable. Issuing guidance on staying safe, such as how to stay cool at home, is critically important.
Preventive care must be prioritized in these most vulnerable populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises those without access to air-conditioned environments to take a cool shower or bath. Electric fans also can help.
A cool pool can help beat the heat.
Medical professionals say the risk of catching COVID-19 at public pools is low as long as swimmers take precautions such as social distancing, avoiding the locker room and not touching surfaces on the way to the water.