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Scientists say the nation is experiencing another public health emergency that will further exacerbate the coronavirus crisis: extreme heat.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting the next three months will be hotter than normal for much of the country; 2020, it says, likely will rank as one of the hottest years on record.
Communities of color, particularly lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods, will be particularly affected. Extreme heat likely will push more residents into crowded cooling centers, where they may be exposed to the virus, and worsen breathing problems and other underlying health conditions that already disproportionately affect people of color, researchers say.
As the summer heats up, cities are offering help with utility bills; repairing existing air conditioning systems or providing free air conditioners for low-income residents; opening more cooling centers; and parking buses with the air conditioning running so that passersby can cool off.
But advocates and many scientists say officials need to develop strategies to protect the health of vulnerable communities for the long term, as climate change leads to more frequent and intense heat waves.