Heat-Related Deaths Increase as Temperatures Rise in the West

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PORTLAND, Cevher. — Western states prepared for another extreme rise in temperatures this weekend after a recent heatwave in Oregon and Washington State killed nearly 200 people and endangered workers in fields and warehouses.

Extreme temperature warnings were in effect in the California interior and Southwest over the weekend, and The National Weather Service predicted He said temperatures will approach their all-time high in Las Vegas by Saturday. A high of at least 130 degrees – which is one of the highest temperatures reliably recorded in the world – estimated Death valley.

In California, the utility that operates the state power grid asked residents on Thursday to set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher to reduce power use, and Governor Gavin Newsom expanded a regional drought emergency to include all but eight of the state’s 58 counties. It also asked Californians to reduce their water consumption by 15 percent.

Three weeks after a brutal summer across much of the country, temperatures have taken record numbers of lives in the Pacific Northwest. threatened water resources and set the stage in the West for what else is expected disaster fire season.

In Washington, the state health department reported that extreme heat has played a role in 78 deaths since late June, while Oregon’s medical examiner put the heat-related death toll in that state at at least 116.

The large number of deaths in a historically temperate and heat-stroke part of the country has been a hazard, highlighting both the prevalence of climate change and the vulnerability of large sections of the population. Most of the deaths in the Pacific Northwest were among the homeless and the elderly or those with medical problems.

The dangers have been particularly acute on construction sites where manual labor is done outside in the sun or in workplaces where the lack of air conditioning has historically not been an issue.

As of Friday, Oregon officials were investigating a possible heat-related workplace death at a Walmart warehouse.

Aaron Corvin, spokesperson for Oregon Occupational Safety and Health, said a middle-aged man, who was an intern at Walmart’s distribution center in Hermiston, Ore., “began stumbling and having trouble speaking” at the end of his afternoon shift on June 24. . The man, whose identity has not been released, was transferred to a hospital and then to a medical center in Portland, where he died.

The man’s cause of death has yet to be determined, and the investigation could take several months to complete.

Colleagues, who said the man was in his 50s and had underlying health issues, said he had worked with Walmart for about two weeks, earned around $18 an hour, and worked in a warm trailer with only one fan in it. cooling mechanism. The National Weather Service reported a high of 97 degrees that day.

“We are devastated by the loss of one of our employees and we are doing everything we can to support those affected,” said Walmart spokesperson Scott Pope. “The details surrounding his colleague’s death are being evaluated by medical professionals and OSHA. Very carefully, we have provided Oregon OSHA with all available information and are fully collaborating in its investigations.”

A landmark in a community of nearly 17,000 people, the distribution center employs nearly 1,000 people and serves more than 100 Walmart stores across the Pacific Northwest. State records show the facility was cited by Oregon OSHA after a February 2020 inspection, but the breach – a damaged floor grate – was not considered serious and was later repaired.

Last week, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest dropped further towards their normal cold level. But global warming has grown dramatically hot spells of the region.

On June 26, two days after the Walmart employee died, a farm worker on an irrigation team collapsed and died in 104 degrees Celsius while moving irrigation lines in a field at a plant nursery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

The next day, managers at an Amazon warehouse complex in Kent, Washington, were so worried about the rising heat that they distributed frosted scarves and scattered floor fans around the building to boost the facility’s often adequate climate control measures, workers said. told the Seattle Times.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown Oriented Oregon OSHA Adopting emergency rules before the oncoming heat wave, including employers’ requirements to provide workers with shade, rest time, and cold water during extreme heat events. The state has been working since last year to adopt permanent heat regulations for employers, but efforts have been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“No one should have to decide between their health and their salary,” the governor said in a statement. I’m worried that our latest record-breaking heatwave in the Willamette Valley is a harbinger of things to come.”

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