A staggering heatwave across much of the U.S., predicted to last multiple weeks in some areas, is raising alarms over the impact of extreme heat on vulnerable populations compounded by the dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The heatwave is expected to be most brutal in the Southwest, an area that has seen some of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19. Arizona and Texas are both seeing record numbers of new infections. The influx of COVID-19 patients and the precautions being taken to limit the spread of the virus lower hospitals’ ability to handle heat stroke and other heat-exacerbated cases. Meanwhile, the extreme heat forces people unable to afford housing or air conditioning into cooling centers where they can be exposed to the virus. Communities of color have been hit hardest by COVID-19 poverty, poor housing, polluted water, isolation, and other harms of systemic racism.
These factors, along with a lack of running water caused in part by coal extraction has made the Navajo Nation one of the epicenters of the pandemic.