Kafoury: Multnomah County will analyze heat wave deaths
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury on Sunday, July 4, promised "a much deeper analysis" of the historic heat wave as the county death toll rose to 64, more than half the number of the entire state.
The analysis will include "how to plan for the future," the county said in a press release.
Appearing on the CBS news show Face the Nation Sunday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the record-breaking heat was a "harbinger of things to come" that disproportionately harms minority communities.
"We literally have had four emergency declarations in this state at the federal level since April of 2020. What is really, really clear […] throughout these emergency events is that our communities of color, our low-income families, are [both] disproportionately impacted. We have to center the voices of Black, and Brown and Indigenous People at the forefront of our work as we do emergency preparedness," Brown said.
One problem was the reported failure of the country-contracted 2-1-1 phone system to inform callers where cooling centers were available and how to get to them.
According to the Sunday release, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner reported that the number of deaths from the heat wave has risen from 59 to 64. The deaths were identified between June 27 and July 3, 2021, after a record-shattering heat wave fell over the region beginning June 25.
At least 94 people were reported to have died from the heat as of Saturday, July 3.
Preliminary information shows the people who died ranged in age from 44 to 97, with an average age of 68. The majority were white. Many were found in their homes, with no air conditioning or fans. The county released a map on Saturday showing the deaths took place throughout the county, with the greatest concentration in Lents.
According to the release, "Beginning June 23, the County mounted an all-hands-on-deck public health response that included opening 24-hour cooling centers and nine cooling spaces, directly contacting tens of thousands of vulnerable elders, people with disabilities and pregnant women, distributing hundreds of fans and sending more than 60 outreach teams into the field to reach people experiencing homelessness."
The county is currently unable to estimate how many of those who died were homeless.
"Death investigators are continuing to respond to suspected cases in what has been an unprecedented mass casualty event. They will be conducting additional investigation to bring what is still a very blurry picture into sharp focus," the release continued.
A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be found here.
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