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When Pandemic Meets Heat Wave, Low-Income Angelenos Suffer Most

A pedestrian uses an umbrella on a hot sunny morning in L.A. on Oct. 24, 2017. (Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)
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It’s hot in L.A. and will continue to be for the next few days. But heat isn’t equally distributed throughout the city.

Some neighborhoods, like South L.A., can be 10 degrees hotter than other parts of the city. That's in part because of a lack of trees and green space, which help lower temperatures.

Usually in a heat wave, people in hot homes and apartments can find other places to cool off, like the mall, a restaurant or the library. But all those places are closed due to the coronavirus.

And anyway, most people have to stay at home to reduce transmission of the virus.

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Lawrence Palinkas, USC professor of social work, anthropology and preventive medicine, said residents in lower-income neighborhoods may be more at risk for heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration or cognitive dissociation while sheltering at home.

“Many will be sheltering at home in homes that lack air conditioning and without the ability to seek refuge,” Palinkas said.

The L.A. County Public Health Department is looking at safely opening cooling centers if needed. In the meantime, here's what they recommend:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours
  • Check on vulnerable friends and family
  • Don’t leave your kids and pets in a hot car
  • Call 911 if you have symptoms of a heat-related illness. Symptoms include high body temperature, vomiting, and pale and clammy skin.

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