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Expected death toll from Northwest heat wave to continue rising

In Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia, hundreds of deaths have been investigated because of heat-related causes. The deadly heat started on June 25, and it only subsided in certain areas on Tuesday.

According to the state medical examiner, Oregon has seen at least 79 deaths. Most of these deaths occurred in Multnomah County which includes Portland. One of the victims was a Guatemalan immigrant, who died while working in a plant nursery in rural Oregon during the high heat.

Lisa Lapointe of British Columbia, Canada's chief coroner said that her office received reports about at least 486 "sudden, unexpected deaths" between June 25, and Wednesday. Normally, she estimated that about 165 people would be killed in the province within five days. Although it was not possible to determine how many deaths are due to heat, she said that most were likely caused by it.

Washington authorities have connected about 30 deaths to heatwaves, and more are coming in every day.

"I believe that over time we will understand the numbers are only going up," Dr. Steve Mitchell, Director of Harborview Medical Center's Emergency Medicine Department, Seattle. "I have seen EMS colleagues experience twice the number of calls that day and I know that I expect to see more," said Mitchell.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 1,792 visits to emergency rooms for heat-related illnesses since June 25th. 21% of those visits required admission to the hospital.

Monday saw 702 emergency room visits, according to the health department. The heat wave's hottest day was in many parts of the country, with Seattle, Portland and other cities breaking all-time heat records. It was 108 F (42 C), in Seattle, and at 116 F (47) for Oregon's largest city.

Mitchell stated that the latest heat emergency was caused by COVID. Mitchell agreed.

Forecasters blamed the temperature spikes of more than 30 degrees above the normal for a "heat dome", which parked strong high pressure systems over the region. The temperature dropped significantly in Oregon and Washington by Tuesday, but a heat advisory was still in place for parts of Canada and the Northwest.

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