Valley groups making adjustments with heat relief efforts due to COVID-19 pandemic

In 2019, there were 283 heat-related deaths in Arizona, and in 2020, several organizations are ready to help out to make sure those numbers don't climb.

Unlike previous years, the organizations have had to make some adjustments.

"It’s really been turned sideways, upside down," said Amy Schwabenlender, Executive Director with Human Resource Campus. "We’ve been adapting since early March in response to COVID-19."

The Human Services Campus in Phoenix partners with the Central Arizona Shelter Services to provide shelter for the homeless. They typically can provide beds for 470 people, but Schwabenlender says COVID-19 is creating limitations.

"With COVID and having to create physical distancing between beds and people, that number is down more in the mid-300," said Schwabenlender. "Could be 350, up to 390, potentially. For those who have been exposed to COVID, some areas have to have fewer people in them, or we don’t take new people until it’s really passed a 14-day safe period or isolation period."

Coronavirus has also limited the number of heat relief centers in Tempe, so the city turned the Cahill Senior Center into a cooling center.

"The Cahill Center was identified specifically because one is close to an area where individuals need help and need assistance," said Paul Bentley with the City of Tempe. "Based on our demographic with the city, connectivity to transportation, this seemed like an area where many people can get to."

Bentley says people there will also have access to other services.

"It’s not just a location where one gets water, but we have care there who are providing social services as well. Social workers available on site to provide those services, as well as community services," said Bentley.