COVID-19, severe weather and power outages

Wildfire and hurricane season is here and with it comes an influx of weather-related power outages. Experts are warning that natural disasters and extreme weather events will be more frequent and severe this year and that this summer will be hotter than average. Power outages coinciding with high temperatures can quickly escalate to a public health crisis. Between 1999 and 2016, 10,000 deaths in the U.S. were attributed to heat exposure – that’s more deaths than hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods. The health implications of power outages this summer are further compounded this year due to COVID-19.

Over the past couple years, millions of people have lost power due to severe weather. The consequences of these outages can be devastating. This is especially true for the 2.5 million Americans that rely on electricity for home medical equipment, such as ventilators, electric wheelchairs and oxygen concentrators. Many more depend on electricity for air conditioning to avoid heat-induced medical complications and for refrigeration of temperature sensitive medication. Some utility and state leaders have made efforts to reduce health disparities in the event of an outage through programs and policies, but electricity-dependent populations remain especially vulnerable.

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