A summer of excessive heat means heat-related deaths are way up for Maricopa County in 2020

It’s been a brutally hot summer, and the excessive heat is taking a toll on the Valley community.

Besides rising temperatures, heat-related deaths are also up by 30% or more, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic making things more miserable.

Tracy Wolfe, who is homeless, just moved to Phoenix from Tupelo for a fresh start, and went from the frying pan into the fire.

"It’s exhausting, and for health reasons, it’s terrible," said Wolfe.

For summer 2020, there are 55 confirmed heat-related deaths in Maricopa County, with 266 under investigation, representing a big jump from 2019.

The situation is made even worse for 2020, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limited access to libraries, malls and shelters, places where the homeless often cool off.

"People are dehydrating. They’re getting their immunities lowered because of the heat, and they're passing away in record numbers," said Wendy Johnson, Executive Director of the Justa Center.

It isn’t only the homeless, as data shows heat deaths happening across the Valley with some victims being outdoor workers or older people inside their own homes.

"Strokes, heart attacks, and for folks that are taking medication," said Johnson.

For the homeless, the Labor Day Weekend in 2020 will be another weekend struggling on hot pavement, under the scorching sun, and hopefully the last weekend like it for a long while.

“To be stuck out in here is really detrimental. A lot of people just don’t get it," said Wolfe.

Another issue for the homeless is that it doesn’t cool down at night, with temperatures staying above 90°F, which is also the start of the heat danger zone. Meanwhile, officials at the Justa Center say the county is short hundreds of beds for the homeless on any given night.