The Valley of the Sun is now well into triple-digit weather. Meaning some residents, especially the Valley’s elderly and homeless populations, are now at risk of heat-related illness and death.
Every year starting in May or June, Maricopa County’s health department begins releasing a weekly report that tracks heat-related illnesses and associated deaths. The report released on June 30 is the seventh report and the county is seeing a rise in confirmed and suspected heat-associated deaths — 81 so far this year, which is more than double compared to the same time frame in 2019 and 2020.
It started much earlier this year, with the first confirmed heat-associated death occurring on March 13. Two years prior, the first confirmed deaths were in April. In 2019, the first one happened in June.
Data shows 83% of heat-associated deaths are happening outdoors. This may seem obvious, but the metric is closely tracked by the health department since the remaining 17% of heat-associated deaths that happen indoors often impact the county’s at-risk elderly population that may be living in conditions without a functional A/C unit.
The data in the report suggests that this may already be a problem. One-third of the confirmed heat-associated deaths are people over 75 years of age. The data also points to heat-associated deaths adversely impacting homeless populations since half of the confirmed deaths are in the 20- to 34-year-old demographic.