Extreme heat in Arizona has pushed hospitalizations to epidemic levels at one medical center


The temperature in Phoenix once again reached 110 degrees on Monday for the 18th consecutive record day at that temperature or higher as the Southwest reels under a deadly, relentless heatwave.

The record is expected to be broken Tuesday as the streak continues, with temperatures of at least 115 degrees in the forecast for Phoenix every day through next weekend.

As scorching triple-digit temperatures continue, there have been 12 confirmed heat-related deaths recorded in Maricopa County so far this year as of the first week of July, and 55 cases are under investigation as suspected heat-related deaths, according to data from the Department of US Food and Drug Administration. Maricopa County Department of Public Health. CNN has reached out to the Maricopa Medical Examiner for additional information.

Dangerously high temperatures are also taxing hospitals as people with heat-related illnesses seek treatment.

“The heat is taking its toll,” emergency room physician Frank Lovecchio of Valleyways Health Medical Center told CNN. “The hospital has not been this busy since a few peaks in the COVID pandemic.”

Studies show that heat is the number one killer of all natural disasters, and as temperatures continue to rise, scientists expect it will make more people sick.

With residents running their air conditioners in this heat wave, Arizona Public Service customers’ demand on Saturday set the record for the most electricity used at once in a utility’s history, according to a press release from the company.

Phoenix has a total of 60 hydration stations, 30 cooling centers and four comfort centers for those needing heat relief, Kelly Taft, communications director for the Maricopa Association of Governments, told CNN.

It’s not just Arizona experiencing extreme heat: More than 90 million people are under heat warnings across the United States, including at least 50 million who have been under heat advisories for the past 10 days.

There have been heat advisories for dangerously high temperatures in the Southwest — stretching from Texas to Arizona — for 38 straight days dating back to June 10.

And the streak shows no signs of ending anytime soon. The National Weather Service warned that the heat is expected to continue across the region until at least July 28, and that overnight temperatures will provide little relief.

More than 1,500 temperature records have been set in the United States so far this month, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

More than 35 daily high temperature records were broken on Sunday alone, according to the weather service, with Death Valley, California, setting a daily record of 128 degrees and Las Vegas breaking its own record of 116 degrees.

Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Texas; Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida, are experiencing their hottest July yet, according to climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The temperature in El Paso reached 100 degrees for the 32nd straight day, “with no end in sight,” the weather service said. chirp. The previous record for consecutive days of more than 100 was 23 in 1994.

“Take the heat seriously and avoid spending too much time outside,” the weather service said. “Temperatures and temperature indicators will reach levels that would pose a health risk, and potentially lethal, to anyone without effective and/or adequate hydration.”

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A person cools off amid the blistering heat on July 16, 2023, in Phoenix. The heat dome over Texas, which extends into California, Nevada and Arizona, is exposing millions of Americans to excessive heat. Warnings, according to the National Weather Service.

At Valleywise Health Medical Center, LoVecchio said he saw three to four cases per shift of patients facing death without emergency treatment.

Body temperatures of 107 or higher can lead to death or permanent brain damage. It could take five to 10 minutes to cause brain cells to die at these high temperatures, Lovecchio said.

In some extreme cases, they put patients in body bags filled with ice to help cool them down, Valleywise Health Medical Center communications director Michael Murphy told CNN, adding that the burn center has been “criticized” for patients with contact burns.

The temperature of the pavement in the sun can reach 180 degrees, Lovecchio said. Patients may fall to the sidewalk due to dehydration, heat stroke or another medical condition, he said.

“It never gets cold here and surface temperatures can get ridiculously high and people can get burned within seconds,” Murphy said.

Over the past five years, Murphy said contact burns have become a “huge problem.”

Everyone is susceptible to heat-related injuries, including those who have lived in Arizona all their lives, said Sonia Singh, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Public Health Department.

“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in the heat, or how old you are, or how healthy you are,” Singh said. “It affects everyone.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the status of 55 other suspected heat deaths; They are still under investigation. It also made a mistake in determining where the deaths occurred; They were in Maricopa County.

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