Gov. Hobbs reaffirms state of emergency ‘not necessary’ for heat deaths

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs says the option is still on the table, but not yet necessary.
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 8:03 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Gov. Katie Hobbs has yet to declare the deadly extreme heat this summer an emergency, even though Maricopa County is on track to break last year’s record for heat deaths. “To date, that hasn’t been necessary, but we’re still leaving it on the table absolutely,” Hobbs said Thursday morning.

The latest numbers reveal Maricopa County has confirmed nearly 60 heat-related deaths this year, with more than 300 still under investigation. The grim data has the state’s most populous county ahead of last year’s pace when 424 people died from heat-related illnesses. “The unprecedented heat we’re seeing this year and we know it’s costing lives. The state of emergency is an option if we need to free up additional resources,” Hobbs said.

The additional resources mean more money to possibly open more cooling centers, keep existing cooling sites open 24 hours a day and more outreach to those who are most vulnerable to the high temperatures. Governors typically declare emergencies for natural disasters and weather-related events like extreme flooding and wildfires that kill fewer people than heat. But last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsome, also a Democrat, declared a state of emergency ahead of a major heatwave and Navajo Nation issued an emergency declaration just last month.

Gov. Hobbs has taken some heat-related actions, such as ordering state regulators to make sure Arizona workers are working under safe conditions. Hobbs has also demanded that the state’s major utility companies reveal their plans to prepare for the extreme heat.

While the homeless may appear to be the most vulnerable, the data tells a different story. According to Maricopa County, 68% of all heat deaths this year were people who were not unsheltered or homeless.

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