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Excessive heat could kill more Americans as the environment warms

According to a report out by Climate Central, if environmental regulations are not tightened, more excessive heat days will occur as we head towards the end of the century. This will cause an increase in heat-related deaths, especially in Northern states where people aren't as acclimated to hot temperatures.

Posted: Jun 29, 2020 8:08 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2020 10:21 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Summertime has become a struggle for people like Rusty Beauchamp. Sitting in her home, shades closed and lights off, trying to keep cool.

In the Summer of 2019, when heat indices peaked in the mid-100s, Beauchamp's air conditioner went out, forcing her to sit and wait until nighttime, when it might get cooler.

"Last summer was really bad," Beauchamp said. "We had all the windows and doors, and everything open. We couldn’t stay cool because we didn’t have any of these small air conditioners. This year we borrowed the small air conditioners from friends, so it’s a little bit better."

This summer, she has relief from three small window air conditioners, but she doesn’t have much hope for them.

"I don’t imagine these little units will last much longer. They’re older and next week it’s going to get really hot, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to deal with that. I may go stay with my daughter," Beauchamp said.

Rusty is just one of many throughout the region and tens of thousands throughout the country who have to suffer through the excessive heat without immediate relief, and that problem could be getting worse.

According to a report out by Climate Central, scientists know that as we head towards the end of the century more excessive heat days will occur. This will cause an increase in heat-related deaths, especially here in Northern states where we’re not as acclimated to hot temperatures.

Senior citizens, those with underlying health conditions and on medications are particularly vulnerable according to the report.
John Falatko, DO, with Parkview, who was not involved with the repor explains why.

"As the body ages, it becomes more frail, especially to our environments and the exchange that they'll face with our environment, so the medications help compound that. Sometimes, it can make it more difficult," Falatko said. "They need the medicines to keep them alive and keep them healthy during normal conditions, but during extreme conditions, they can work against them."

These medications can make it hard to stay hydrated, and cause our bodies problems with breathing and regulating temperature.

For someone like Rusty, she had COPD, Arthritis, Asthma and other health problems that make her more susceptible to heat illness or death.

Not only that, living on limited income means you have to choose between other necessities and fixing your air conditioning.

Beauchamp lives in her mobile home with just her son. Their household income is below poverty level according to her. Beauchamp said, "Basically air conditioning is a luxury at the point now because I have other things that I need to take care of that are more important." 

Katie Hougham with Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana says the excessive heat is a problem every summer, but COVID-19 is causing people to second guess one of the safety precautions when it comes to extreme heat. 

"To combine that [excessive heat] with COVID where maybe they would go and stay with their daughter for a couple of days when the temps are really high and now they're not wanting to intermingle in that way, it's that much more scary," Hougham said.

In the long term, authors of the study say we need to create stricter environmental regulations to make sure the number of days of excessive heat is close to normal, causing fewer heat-related deaths. In the short-term, there are things we can do to help protect people like Rusty.

During excessive heat:

  • Knock on your neighbors' door to see if they’re alright. Both Falatko and Hougham say this is the #1 thing to do.
  • Try and get relief from air conditioning, fans, cooling centers.
  • Check with your doctors to see if your meds can cause you problems.
  • If you live in Fort Wayne city limits, applying to the Homeowner Repair Loan Program could help get the relief you need.

During the interview is when Rusty found out that a loan program like that existed. She said, "That’s fantastic because I didn’t know there was a program like that. I would have air conditioner fixed and my furnace, and everything a lot sooner."

If you're someone who needs help with getting relief from excessive heat, reach out to your township trustee's office or call 211 to get connected with an agency that may be able to help you.

To apply to the Homeowner Repair Loan Program, click here.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 595436

Reported Deaths: 9466
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion822851311
Lake44626670
Allen32165543
Hamilton28684308
St. Joseph26917378
Elkhart24173343
Vanderburgh18856236
Tippecanoe17638125
Johnson14687289
Porter14513163
Hendricks14010242
Madison10715216
Vigo10540177
Clark10349135
Monroe9189108
Delaware8956134
LaPorte8867158
Howard7982140
Kosciusko791380
Warrick652994
Hancock646999
Bartholomew631096
Floyd6205107
Wayne5984159
Grant5874110
Dubois547175
Boone538867
Morgan524192
Henry497764
Marshall495384
Cass475362
Dearborn464545
Noble463157
Jackson417846
Shelby405680
Lawrence383876
Clinton367840
Gibson360058
DeKalb339163
Montgomery338152
Harrison333643
Knox329839
Miami312743
Steuben309343
Adams297435
Whitley297225
Wabash294947
Ripley294345
Putnam288047
Jasper285234
Huntington284959
White269138
Daviess263073
Jefferson253838
Decatur243482
Fayette242948
Greene237062
Posey234427
Wells231347
LaGrange225061
Clay219032
Scott218538
Randolph209845
Jennings193935
Sullivan189632
Spencer184319
Fountain180527
Washington179321
Starke172743
Jay163922
Fulton161130
Owen161137
Carroll153915
Orange152933
Rush151618
Perry149327
Vermillion145833
Franklin144433
Tipton129232
Parke12918
Pike114326
Blackford109222
Pulaski95337
Newton89821
Brown85931
Benton85310
Crawford7719
Martin70713
Warren6637
Switzerland6235
Union6146
Ohio4727
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 836049

Reported Deaths: 10323
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin98533705
Cuyahoga831801065
Hamilton61931441
Montgomery42028399
Summit33849736
Lucas30524605
Butler30003228
Stark25093419
Warren19083140
Lorain18418212
Mahoning16931337
Lake15592136
Clermont15335105
Delaware1403077
Licking12819132
Trumbull12515307
Fairfield1232480
Greene11729135
Medina11286165
Clark10672264
Wood10081156
Allen9639126
Portage9006107
Miami895273
Richland8910116
Marion7377113
Tuscarawas7177174
Columbiana7164124
Pickaway710350
Wayne6855165
Muskingum678241
Erie5976118
Hancock542990
Ross535287
Scioto527063
Geauga491755
Darke459489
Ashtabula443172
Lawrence439353
Union437028
Sandusky427462
Mercer427387
Seneca417357
Auglaize416259
Huron416138
Shelby413521
Jefferson409066
Belmont403740
Washington375940
Putnam367872
Athens36759
Madison343429
Knox340122
Ashland336838
Fulton328543
Defiance322578
Crawford316371
Preble313836
Brown298819
Logan296529
Ottawa283934
Clinton281243
Williams272866
Highland266018
Jackson259043
Guernsey245325
Champaign244427
Fayette229729
Morrow22574
Perry223318
Holmes220362
Henry213547
Hardin206433
Coshocton199620
Van Wert198744
Wyandot192549
Gallia192126
Adams167415
Pike167417
Hocking165523
Carroll151316
Paulding141121
Noble118740
Meigs105021
Monroe97229
Harrison8598
Morgan79728
Vinton67613
Unassigned00
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