As the United States nears its hottest time of the year, scientists are launching a research project into whether the public health impacts of extreme heat will be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both heat waves and the novel coronavirus disproportionately affect the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions. However, the guidance for at-risk residents during the pandemic – to stay home and avoid crowded public spaces – runs counter to recommendations during heat waves that residents who lack air conditioning spend time in air-conditioned public spaces. (The first survey results are available here.)
"Social distancing reduces risk of COVID-19. However, social isolation – especially without adequate cooling – increases people’s risk of heat-related illness," said Olga Wilhelmi, a geographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with expertise in societal risk and extreme heat. "It's important that we understand these intersecting risks because they can compound to produce significant health impacts."