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COVID Concerns Nix Cooling Center In Roseburg As Heat Wave Peaks

Jarosław Kwoczała

Advocates and city leaders in Roseburg are left scrambling as a heat wave hits the region and no cooling centers have been set up.

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning including Douglas County until Saturday night. During the last heatwave, there was a cooling center that provided water and fresh fruit along with medical staff and cots at the senior center in Roseburg. But the cooling center isn’t open during this heatwave due to COVID concerns, as first reported by the News Review.

Now, nonprofits and church groups are scrambling to get help to people living outside. Dane Zahner of the HIV Alliance says that the city does not have an effective plan to help.

“You can't expect community-based organizations such as churches or nonprofits to take the whole role in organizing and mainstreaming that,” says Zahner. “I think that's what the emergency action plan needs to include and the missing piece is it doesn't include what's going to happen with our unhoused.”

Not only is there a triple-digit heat wave hitting the region, but the smoke from the wildfires is pushing the air quality to increasingly unhealthy levels. According to AirNow.gov, on Thursday afternoon the Air Quality Index was at 351 in Roseburg, a reading in the Hazardous zone. When the air is hazardous, people are more likely to experience negative health effects.

The recommendation when the air quality is this bad is to avoid outdoor physical exertion and to try to remain inside. This is hard for many houseless people in Roseburg because of the lack of cooling centers.

The heatwave on the West coast killed hundreds last month. This time, advocates were hoping that officials would be better prepared for this round of triple-digit temperatures, as well as the threat of wildfire smoke.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.