It’s not a big secret.
It’s hot outside.
It’s not necessarily the triple-digit marks that are worrying San Joaquin County Public Health officials, but rather the perfect storm of heat, humidity and the lack of any cooling mechanism that leaves late night and early mornings warmer than usual.
According to Dr. Cara Hoover, San Joaquin County’s Assistant Health Officer, local hospitals that are treating any patients with heat-related illnesses – heat stress, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, etc. – have been asked to submit reports to the Public Health Department to help provide data and documentation about the unusual event.
While the patient’s personal information is not catalogued, getting hospitals to report other findings – they’re currently only required to report infectious diseases – will allow the county to formulate a plan in the event of another “heat event” that can be deadly for seniors, small children and those susceptible to the elements.
“This isn’t something that happens very often,” Hoover said. “It’s not just the duration, but the associated humidity and the fact that it’s not cooling down at night that makes this significant. It’s a serious event for people that live in homes that aren’t air conditioned, and that’s why we’ve activated the plan that we have in place now – opening cooling centers and providing options for people.”
It isn’t unusual for a heat spell to fall on or around the Fourth of July holiday. The average temperature for this time of year in the Northern San Joaquin Valley is well into the 90s, and can extend all the way in to September.
Emergency officials, however, sprung into action late last weekend when humidity – an unlikely companion to the summer heat – became a factor. By Monday afternoon, Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters had activated the Community Emergency Response Team to man a cooling center at the senior center and walk local trailer parks to inform residents about available options.
The county responded similarly, and by asking local hospitals to submit information, Hoover said, they’ll be able to better craft the response for the next time that an emergency such as the one currently in effect – the one they declared – rolls through.
“In public health we’re evidence-based – data-based – so to that extent we need as much information as we can gather to shape our response to the things that threaten the public health,” she said. “We use our best judgment and collect real data and go from there, and sometimes we’re able to find things that we didn’t know before.
“For example, we might see that we’re experiencing heat-illness more in a given community, and that will allow us to increase our outreach and target our cooling centers more effectively. It’s about strategizing and planning and being prepared for the next time.”
OK to turn on air conditioning
The Manteca Community Emergency Response Team that canvassed every mobile home in Manteca Monday and Tuesday to advise residents of the need to take precautions and provide information about local cooling centers, were surprised at the high number of seniors that did not have their air conditioning units on.
Most told the CERT volunteers that they had heard news reports on TV advising people not to turn on major appliances due to critical power levels. The CERT volunteers informed the seniors that air conditioning was not considered a major appliance and that they should turn them on.
With a high forecast of 104 degrees today, the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane, is open from noon to 8 p.m. as an emergency cooling center. There are no plans for it to open as such on Friday since the high is expected to drop off into the mid-90s.
It reached 106 degrees Wednesday at the Manteca Civic Center weather station.