Philadelphia issues first heat health emergency of 2020, will open cooling centers

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With temperatures forecast in the high 90s, Philadelphia has issued a Heat Health Emergency beginning Monday, July 20, at 8:30 a.m. So what does this mean in the middle of a pandemic?

"It is more complicated because the same people that are at risk for severe heat illness, elderly and people with chronic medical conditions, are also at risk for severe infections from the coronavirus," explained Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

He said the declaration allows the city to offer emergency heat programs, like the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's Heatline and cooling centers.

Complicating matters is the pandemic. According to Dr. Derek Ziegler, with the Office of Emergency Management, Free Library locations are closed. However, the Free Library and the city came together to form a plan, opening a few locations, plus alternate cooling sites.

"Balancing the risks of COVID spread with the importance of having someplace to cool off," discussed Ziegler. "So we have three libraries, two schools, and four to five sets of buses."

Officials said those will be in the most vulnerable areas of the city, like Kensington, Hunting Park, North Philly, West Philly and Overbrook.

The library branches open will be the Haddington Library at 445 North 56th Street, the Lillian Marrero Library at 601 West Lehigh Avenue, and the Logan Library at 1333 Wagner Avenue.

These branches will be open between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday, July 20.

Farley said the cooling centers will be following strict safety protocols.

"Making sure everyone wears masks, keeping people apart from one another," he reminded.

The commissioner also encouraged everyone to check on their vulnerable family, friends and neighbors.