Maricopa County, in the Valley of Arizona, is on track to record its highest number of heat-associated deaths since tracking began over a decade ago, with 331 confirmed deaths this year and 273 more under investigation. Around 44% of these deaths were among the homeless population and 74% occurred outdoors. The city experienced its hottest July on record, with temperatures reaching at least 110 degrees on over 17 days in August, leading to a significant increase in heat-related fatalities compared to the previous year.
Record Heat-Related Deaths in Maricopa County
Record-breaking heat in Maricopa County this year is responsible for 331 fatalities, potentially leading to the county’s highest heat-related deaths in over a decade. According to a report, 273 cases are still under investigation. If 2023 surpasses 2022’s record of 425 heat-related deaths, it will be the highest since tracking began in 2012.
Sonia Singh, a spokesperson for the county health department, said, “Every one of these deaths can be prevented. Any one of us could be at risk.” The rising number of homeless people in metro Phoenix suffered severely from the heat, with 44% of heat-related deaths in 2023 among this group.
Unsheltered Population’s Overrepresentation in Heat Deaths
David Hondula, director of Phoenix’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, warns that the report might not tell the complete story. Homeless people, who constitute less than 1% of Maricopa County’s population, account for 44% of heat-related deaths, indicating a significantly higher risk.
Dr. Patrick Vinck, senior medical director at Oak Street Health, highlighted the disproportionate risk for the unsheltered population. The county tracks heat-related fatalities through various sources, and confirmation of these fatalities can take time, as per Singh.
Arizona’s 2023 Summer Heat Wave Impact
Phoenix endured its hottest July on record, with temperatures reaching over 110 degrees on 17 days in August. Access to cooling centers is a challenge for individuals without cars, increasing the risk of heat-related health issues.
Vinck advises vigilance for signs of heat-related illness and proactive measures like seeking shade, drinking water, and using available resources. He warns that when symptoms like severe fatigue or ceased sweating occur, immediate medical help is necessary.